Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's a Man's World by Polly Courtney

2 Star

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em… Alexa Harris loves a challenge. So when she’s asked to head up lads’ mag, Banter, she doesn’t need much persuasion. But life on the all-male editorial team proves harder than Alexa had imagined – and not just because of her ambitious targets. As Alexa battles with a testosterone-fuelled office, she decides to play the boys at their own game. As success hits, she’s forced to look at who she has become. Has she forfeited her principles in return for praise from the lads? And what price will there be to pay? 

Lydia - 2 Star

SPOILERS!  This is my first review with them so please do not read on if you don’t want to be surprised or offended that I’m spilling the beans. I apologize but I didn’t think I could write this review without them.   

It’s a Man’s World confused me. There was so much potential with this storyline, but Courtney didn’t capitalize on the great plot idea, the characters and especially the issues. This novel contained cliché characters, mixed messages, a supposedly strong protagonist that came across as weak and wishy-washy and an evil portrayal of men’s magazines that didn’t sit right with me.

Alexa was portrayed as a strong female character with a fantastic job, yet she was repeatedly spineless.  She could never make up her mind and/or talked herself out of the inappropriate conduct of her staff as well as her own inability to take action regarding their behaviour. Even at the end of the novel when she wants to make a stand, she tries, but her efforts go right over her boss’s head and she never bothers to set him straight.  So what was even the point then? The internal dialogue in this novel grated at me. Alexa’s thoughts were so jumbled, confused and repetitive that I grew desperate for more action and not just her thoughts about action or inaction. 

I discovered as this novel progressed that things always happened to Alexa. She never made anything happen herself. I love reading about someone overcoming obstacles and making their own fate instead of having everyone else dictate life for them - not to mention seeing this unfold in real life. I kept reading and waiting for her to make something happen for herself but sadly, she never did.

The romantic angle even confused me.  Under the impression that her boyfriend at the beginning of the novel was lovely, I waited the entire novel for Alexa to realize she loved him more than her work. Towards the end when she realized he was domineering and controlling, although we never saw any evidence of this, I was left baffled, and even more so by her love interest by the end of the novel. 

Every character in this novel seemed caricature-ish to me.  They only had one side to them, were never fully developed and I didn’t really like any of them.  I wanted to know why Georgie was so involved in her cause, why Alexa’s love interest doesn’t seem to care how his colleagues treated her and why the office ringleader was so despicable.  The only character I actually grew fond of was Sienna, the playmate type personal assistant - maybe because she was the only person that actually changed.

The men seemed ridiculous to me. Although I’m sure they exist, maybe I’ve just lived in a bubble, or been lucky enough to avoid men like this in a working or personal situation.  Sure, I’ve come across some real winners in my time, but none even remotely resembling these vile creatures. I have no idea why Alexa, the strong feminist, seemed to put up with their behaviour.

So, if the point of the novel was to make me think, it did.  I thought.  A lot. Especially about the sexual objectification of women and how this novel blamed it all on men’s magazines. 

This is where this novel went really wrong for me. It’s wasn’t the exploration of this issue, which kudos to Courtney for tackling it, but blaming it all on men’s magazines? Come on!

There are music videos, video games, women’s magazines forcing an idyllic beauty, not to mention role model and peer relationships that affect kids too. Has anyone seen any of the MTV programming lately?  By solely blaming the magazine for the sexual objectification of women, I felt it ignored these other facets of society that are equally to blame for the sexual objectification and violence against women. 

Speaking of violence, what about our cultural obsession with it? You can’t escape it. The media hones in on it, revels in it. You can’t flip TV channels in the evening without coming across something violent.  I personally would rather my child see a passionate kiss than a shooting or stabbing or got a peek at a nuddie magazine than play a game of Mortal Kombat. Sure there are ‘safeguards’ like over 18 restrictions in place, but kids ultimately get their hands on stuff. I don’t know one guy that didn’t discover someone’s magazines when they were young and they seemed to turn out OK. Maybe the generation after mine, which is who these characters are portraying, haven’t been so fortunate though? And if this is the case, I definitely needed even more in depth exploration of the issues.

The mixed messages this novel spewed were particularly evident with the following passage surrounding the defense of pornography. It came from Georgie’s character, the head of an award winning human rights organization that challenges the sexual objectification of women. Both Georgie and Alexa are on a morning news program in a heated debate about Alexa’s new phone app and the sexual objectification of women.  Georgie defends porn.  Wait what? 

‘That’s porn,’ argued Georgie, calmly. ‘And porn is fine.  Although its degrading to women, at least when we look at it we know it’s porn. We go out of our way to find it.  We know it’s not real. What magazines like yours have done is brought sex into the mainstream.  That’s far more dangerous than hardcore porn on obscure websites.’ … “Did you see videos of half naked women on a regular basis when you were growing up?’

I interject here that Alexa has made amateur nude videos more accessible via a mobile app, but aren’t the majority of mobile devices already internet connected and aren’t sites such as these already in existence? And the defense of porn by this feminist freedom fighter?  I don’t get it.  I really don’t.

And why yes, I did grow up with a half naked woman in music videos. Her name was Madonna. And considering the main character is close to a decade younger than me, I assume she grew up with her and many others too.  Oh wait, she wasn’t talking about music videos.  Because they’re in no way to blame.  Right.

I won’t go on, nor will I even try to profess that I can solve this issue, but I do believe there is more at play in the sexual objectification of women than just men’s magazines. 

I guess this novel touched a chord with me and made me think, and if that was the point, Bravo to Polly Courtney. I just feel its unfortunate that the issues weren’t explored further, that Alexa was so incapable to act and that the characters motivations, especially Georgie, weren’t divulged because if they had, It’s a Man’s World could have had a much more profound impact. 

Thank you to Polly Courtney for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Polly Courtney:


  1. I totally agree with your review. You basically said what I said in my review (but better). It was indeed a good idea for a novel, but it was so poorly executed that it just made it not worth the good plot!

  2. Ha! And the best part--as I'm sure you heard--was that Polly actually left her publisher because she felt they portrayed her as 'chick-lit' when in fact her books(this one being mentioned in particular)are so above that label and hit real issues and should be seen as true literature!

    Oh yes, what a magnificent job she does hitting on the issues of today! No tunnel vision there, no sir. CNN should hire her this minute...

  3. Yep agreed! This book left me scratching my head on multiple topics!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...