The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 27, 2009

Book review: Witty dialogue is ‘So Money’

‘She’s So Money’

By Cherry Cheva

Maya is a high-school senior living in Michigan and dreaming of getting as far from there as possible. She knows that college is her ticket out and she’s doing everything in her power to get into Stanford.

For this reason (and pressure from her very involved parents), she is the quintessential good girl. Her schedule is full of AP classes, tutoring struggling students and working as a waitress at her family’s Thai restaurant. Getting into Stanford shouldn’t be too hard … as long as things don’t go awry.

Maya’s trouble begins when she gets a new student to tutor — hunky and popular Camden King — who tries to talk Maya into just doing his homework instead of tutoring him. Her trouble continues when her parents leave Maya and her little brother, Nat, in charge of the restaurant while they’re out of town. After a few good days in charge, Sunday comes. On Sunday, Maya is plagued with mixed-up orders, a jammed dishwasher and two angry ladies. After Maya sasses the angry ladies, they threaten to send the health inspector to the restaurant to shut it down. Maya takes this as an empty threat and makes the managerial decision to put off cleanup from the night’s business to the next day.

Unfortunately, the angry ladies weren’t bluffing. The health inspector shows up before things get cleaned up and gives the restaurant a whopping $10,000 fine. Instead of confessing to her parents, Maya decides to take matters into her own hands. The tips she earns at the restaurant go into her college fund, so she has to be creative. Remembering Camden’s suggestion, Maya starts an elaborate cheating ring. For an impressive price, the smart kids do the popular (not-smart) kids’ homework while Maya and Camden skim money off the top. Maya is sure she can get enough money to pay the fine but all the lying and, well, cheating may cause her to lose everyone she loves.

Cheva, who writes for “Family Guy,” has a knack for witty dialogue. The interactions between Maya and Camden are fun to read and Maya’s first-person narration is good insight into the plight of a good girl gone bad. My one complaint about this book is a couple of jarring uses of a name-calling phrase (associated with a feminine hygiene product). Maya’s use of this phrase is out of character and feels more like Cheva trying a little too hard to capture “teen speak.”

All-in-all, though, this was a fun and satisfying read that got me thinking about what it’s like to be a server. I’ve never worked in food service, so I was curious about whether the descriptions of Maya’s job were accurate. When I asked my friend Christina (at Bella Pepper’s, an Italian restaurant on Range Line) about it, she invited me to spend a lunch shift observing.

I was seated in Leila’s (pronounced “Lee-eye-la”) section, smack dab in the middle of the action. The lunch shift flew by as I watched Leila, Christina, Raquelle and Christi stride from table to table, to the kitchen, back to tables, around corners and through their shifts with the kind of energy and efficiency I can only imagine (all for a base pay of just more than $3 per hour). The amount of multi-tasking that they have to master just to make sure all of their tables have full glasses, warm bread and lunch-hour friendly service is incredible. I certainly understand, now more than ever, that the tips servers receive for their hard work are well-earned and well-deserved. Maya’s hectic serving experiences in “She’s So Money” were well-described and believable, but didn’t quite capture all that I saw in my afternoon of observation.

So, readers, be sure to tip your servers (15 percent is still standard) and check out “She’s So Money” from the teen department at your library.

Cari Boatright Rérat is the teen librarian at Joplin Public Library.