Monday, July 16, 2012

REVIEW: Tips by Nancy Cole

The novel Tips by Nancy Cole, although in real need of some fine editing, is a pretty good book that introduces a very interesting hypothesis and provides a potential way to prove it, but doesn't totally live up to expectations because we’re left completely hanging at the end. The book mostly works, even though it’s a kind of “one-trick” pony in that the premise is an interesting one, and could have been powerful enough to carry this book through to the finish line, had the ending offered some finality and not finished on a “neither here nor there” note.

Because the author’s design unfolds rather quickly, and the theme extends throughout the entire book, it won’t give away much to reveal that this a story about an impoverished young male college student, who gets caught up in a controversy with his restaurant co-workers as to who can earn more money in tips, men or women.  Although the women dispute that they have any particular advantage, some sexist overtones emerge in that it is postulated by the men that woman have the edge in tip earning power because they can just show a little cleavage or flash some leg to customers who are mostly men, to place their male waiter counterparts a distant second in earning tip income.

Somehow Andy, because of his diminutive size and non-macho demeanor is recruited for what is initially theorized as a kind of sociological experiment, but later proves to be so enjoyable and interesting an experience for him, albeit a completely mind-blowing one, that he begins to seriously question his gender identity. Another problem is that Andy, as Andrea, winds up getting into a serious relationship with an unsuspecting young man and this further confounds the issue for him. All this makes for a pretty good book, right? Well, yes, but not totally.

One problem with the story is that while Andy’s feminization process is both interesting and titillating as he gets lessons in “girlish” pursuits and behavior from the supportive young women in this betting contest, one really needs to suspend disbelief quite a bit to accept that Andy, in spite of his self-doubts, can so quickly and flawlessly present himself as a completely convincing young female, such that he is never questioned or “clocked” by any of the tons of people with whom he comes in contact.

All right, it’s only fiction you say, and one can possibly make that leap.

However, the ultimate kicker, the thing that really detracts from this story, is that because Andy never tells the truth about his feelings and about his inclination toward possibly attaining permanent womanhood to anyone, including his suspecting parents, his “boyfriend,” the woman who tacitly serves as his gender therapist, and most of all to himself, at the conclusion we are left totally hanging about the future for Andy/Andrea. Andy keeps everyone in the dark and in the final analysis none of the very important people in Andy’s life know anything. Will Andy go back to school in the fall as Andrea? I guess we’ll have to wait until someday to find out and perhaps we eventually will, if the author ever pens a sequel. After finishing this otherwise enjoyable novel, in effect a book with no real final chapter, “Tips II” seems to be a necessity.

Sally's Note: The Andy Newly saga does continue in A Different Kind of Courage and Inconvenient Truths, although only Tips is available for Kindle as of yet.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

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