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Warning: Divas Ahead

Allison James’ Relationship Guide Filled with Nonsensical Advice

By Jessica O. Young

I Used to Miss Him... But My Aim Is Improving: Not Your Ordinary Breakup Survival Guide

By Allison James

241 pages, Adams Media Corporation, $12.95

You can only be called a diva so many times before you want to throw up. Let’s go with three times. “I Used to Miss Him” accomplishes this amazing feat -- by the end of page ix: Table of Contents. The 241 pages that follow don’t exactly break the pattern, either. Yes, I know that I’m a “Goddess of Divadom,” and yes, I am the leader of my “glam posse,” but to see phrases like these in a book marketed to adults is just, well, embarrassing.

Allison James has it right; “I Used to Miss Him” is certainly not your ordinary breakup survival guide. It’s bad. Downright bad. Just. Really. Bad. Unlike movie classics such as “The Attack of The Killer Tomatoes,” and even some from the “Godzilla” series, “I Used to Miss Him” does not know it’s bad, and it certainly doesn’t revel in its grade B status. James takes herself -- as well as the offensive, sometimes illegal advice she doles out -- so seriously that the book becomes less a guide and more tragedy.

“Chapter One: Face the End with Courage” seeks to pave the road. The problem is that the road doesn’t go anywhere. James offers her readers the list, “End-of-the-Line Signs,” which she suggests we “copy and hang it on [our] refrigerators. Commit it to memory. Pass it out to all of [our] girlfriends.” The signs, much like the rest of the book, are so stereotypical that they are useless. “He says things like, ‘Why do girls care about weddings? Do they just want some stupid piece of crap on their finger?’”

My guess is that no one has ever uttered this phrase. Why? Because it’s ridiculous, and anyone who would say that is in no position to do so. Thus the barrage of unhelpful advice continues, as the reader learns “The Sassy Rules,” how to get through “The Emotional Storm,” and the finer points of “Navigating Extreme Schmuckdum.” If not for this review, I would have set down the book, and put it to good use as a coaster. It would be the second book ever that I have put down and the first book that I vehemently dislike.

Unfortunately, I had to continue reading. For a brief moment, I hoped that the book would pick up, and that the first chapter had been some literary form of survival of the fittest -- that only those worthy enough to know the priceless secrets contained in chapters two through ten would make it there.

So I pressed on and began “Chapter Two: Lose The Guy, Keep The Jewelry.” I barely made it through this chapter but managed somehow. I gave the book the benefit of the doubt, and started “Chapter Three: Grieve-a Like a Diva.” Needless to say, my hope of James redeeming herself was futile.

By the time I got to the end of the book, I started thinking that maybe it was all a joke. “Chapter Eight: DÉjÀ Vu,” seemed too aptly titled to be a coincidence. I swore that I’d read the advice only a hundred pages earlier -- in the same exact words. Usually reusing your own material is a sign to stop. Yet James just kept on going.

To be fair, “I Used to Miss Him” is not entirely bad. The title alone deserves an award, and the blurbs are laugh-out-loud funny. The author’s boyfriend states: “I really wish I wasn’t dating her. I’m probably going to marry her just because I’m afraid of what might happen if I call it off.” Moreover, the book is filled with humorous quotations (think Mark Twain’s “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”).

Sadly, the book is also filled with “Sassy Scoops” (think “Always pay debts to your ex in full in shiny pennies. Borrow a large truck, load up that $1,000 you owe him, and dump it on his lawn.”) and perky little tips to make his life a living hell (“Serve him a prune cake with a cup of coffee, a chocolate-laxative muffin, or any variation of these two stomach-churning treats.”). Whoa.

James certainly has good intentions with this book. She wants to help the millions of women going through painfully cinematic break-ups get over the men that ruined their lives. She encourages women to band together and make “that bastard” sorry for every move he’s ever made in his life. She gives advice on destroying his property, self-confidence, and family relations. Unfortunately, James’ message of “you can make it through this, you’re amazing,” is lost in a sea of cliched tips given every way, several times, in nauseating language.

You’ve been warned.