Book review: ‘Bright Lights, Big Ass’ by Jen Lancaster

What I love about Jen Lancaster is that you feel like she could be your best friend. Your scary, loose cannon, OMG-what-is-she-going-to-say-next friend.

And sometimes? Well, sometimes those people are the most fun in the world to be around.

In her second memoir Bright Lights, Big Ass, Lancaster focuses on the realities of life in the city — and how, specifically, Chicago is nothing like the sparkly, doors-wide-open, exciting New York City that “Sex And The City” character Carrie Bradshaw is so apt to describe. Reality includes annoying neighbors, ridiculous prices, people who don’t like pets and problems with mass transporation. All told with Lancaster’s trademark snark, of course.

While her debut novel Bitter Is The New Black chronicled her fall from success and wealth to unemployment and near poverty, her next memoir finds Lancaster in a better place — financially and emotionally. She’s married to Fletch, her longtime love, and living in a decent-ish apartment with her bevy of beloved animals. She’s sold Bitter Is The New Black and is eagerly awaiting its publication. Here, each chapter in Bright Lights, Big Ass is an ode to some aspect of life in Chicago — and is filled with anecdotes regarding her love of Target, Starbucks and modern conveniences. As I am also a huge fan of those things, Lancaster’s book read like a series of messages from a buddy.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen this song and dance before, but Bright Lights, Big Ass didn’t “wow” me the way her debut book did. I snorted, chortled and laughed until I cried many times, but I wasn’t desperate to read portions of it aloud to my sister or boyfriend. With a second book in the Lancaster’s distinct style, settling in with her prose is like getting a long catch-up email from an old friend: you know it’s going to be full of good stories and fodder for the dinner table, but it’s probably nothing you haven’t heard before.

Without the biting wit made famous through her blog Jennsylvania, Lancaster’s memoirs would seem like a laundry list of whining. But she hasn’t become a New York Times best selling author without being funnier than hell. And she is: spit-take-inducing, compulsively readable and hilarious. And though she can also be erudite and cruel at times, she has a good heart — it’s just layered under a casserole of sarcasm, angst and elitism. But that’s totally fine, because as long as she keeps churning out the funny? Well, I’ll be reading.

Pick this one up as a stand-alone, if you like, but I’d recommend grabbing the books in order; it’s fun to see Jen’s progression. If you’re new to Lancaster, read them as Bitter Is the New Black; Bright Lights, Big Ass; Such A Pretty Fat; Pretty In Plaid; and, last but not least, My Fair Lazy.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0451221257 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy obtained through BookMooch

13 thoughts on “Book review: ‘Bright Lights, Big Ass’ by Jen Lancaster

  1. I loved Bitter is the New Black! I thought it was a little long and could have ended 50 pages sooner, but hey, it was a funny read so wasn’t a waste. I’ve heard Bright Light, Big Ass is not up to the same level but is still funny and biting, so I will always give Jen Lancaster a whirl on my bookshelves! She’s a keeper!


  2. Yeah, this book wasn’t quite as enjoyable as her first, or her most recent but I had a few laugh out loud moments. The dead squirrel incident still makes me laugh.


  3. I’m reading “Pretty In Plaid” right now. You’re right, she’s definitely funny, but once you’ve read one, they stop being quite AS funny. Oh, well. I need some humour in my life. I’ll read ’em all anyways (and yes, I’m working backwards, LOL!!)


  4. This one totally cracked me up too when I read it a few years back! I agree that you want her as your friend so she could say all the stuff you were too shy to say. I have the other books in her memoir series and I need to get to them!


  5. I have a feeling I’ll like Jen when I get around to reading her. Thanks for the tip about reading the memoirs in order: I think that being able to see her progression as I read a long is a fabulous idea!


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