Chick-lit author unveils
Sabrina's dream with charm,

Tatik Chusniyati, Contributor, Malang

Jilbab Britney Spears: Catatan Harian Sabrina (Britney Spears' head scarf: Sabrina's diary) Herlinatiens
Pustaka Anggrek, Yogyakarta, October 2004
199 pp

Amid the flourishing of chick-lit, Helinatiens, born in Ngawi in 1982, is one of the talented young female novelists who have sowed greater fertility in the rather barren land of Indonesian literature. Her first novel, Garis Tepi Seorang Lesbian (Stepping over the line: A lesbian's story) published by Galang press in 2003, sold like hot cakes. Likewise, Jilbab Britney Spears: Catatan Harian Sabrina (Britney Spears' head scarf: Sabrina's diary) is now a best-seller in the country.

By the time readers have closed the book, they will agree that a theme about women, especially teenage girls, will always provide inspirational material for a story.

A woman, no matter how she dresses or appears, is a magnet for her closest friends, her family, her country and even the world. Herlinatiens does not want to be left behind in revealing the secrets of the magnet behind a woman's charms.

Writing in a style in which she calls a spade, a spade, the author tries to show in Jilbab Britney Spears that every woman dreams of being respected in this wicked world.

However, conveying female purity is not limited to young women simply placing a head scarf over their heads in the style of Britney Spears, as is ""understood"" and ""followed"" by present-day female role models. Even though their heads may be covered, their navels become exposed when they look up and their underwear are likewise exposed when they bend over.

The teen protagonist in this novel, Sabrina, is not cut from the same cloth as these girls.

Sabrina is described as a good-looking girl, perhaps because she is of mixed race -- she has a Caucasian father. He, however, for an unknown reason, has abandoned her mother to return to his home country.

Meanwhile, Sabrina's mother, Mariam, is a career woman, consumed with her work and her dates with men. Despite this behavior, Sabrina respects her still, because she is her mother. Mariam, on the other hand, believes Sabrina brings her bad luck.

The tone of the novel is sometimes pitying, as it presents Sabrina as an invariably lonely girl devoid of her mother's attention and love. At first, she has neither friends nor a boyfriend.

One day, it strikes Sabrina that she should act slightly sweeter so that she can find a confidante and move away from the label of ""loner"".

She develops a friendship with the smart and fussy Memey, the daughter of a durian vendor, which raises her self-confidence. With Memey, Sabrina can talk about everything that she had previously confided only to her diary.

Sabrina goes down a winding road in her journey to love. While she has to gamble with the feelings of Reno, the cutest boy in her class, she fights hard to defeat her rivals, all aggressive in trying to attract Reno's attention.

Memey is also secretly trying to steal Reno's eye, and in order to do this, she tries to get Reno, Sabrina's classmate during junior high school, to date Sabrina.

Fortunately, love smiles down on Sabrina, and she is doubly rewarded: her love for Reno is returned, and her mother suddenly becomes interested in her and showers her with love. This last is really a miracle for Sabrina, because for nearly 16 years, she had been thought to bring misfortune to the family -- until then, she had never experienced a mother's love, although she came from a well-to-do family.

Jilbab Britney Spears makes for a good read, as the plot flows smoothly, even with the inclusion of reflective thought. The dialog, written fully in the younger generation's vernacular, immerses the reader in a variety of feelings, such as compassion, anger and annoyance.

The novel is obviously intended for young women who generally do not want to think about complicated matters, but it is also suitable for readers seeking entertainment in their free time.

The attraction of this chick-lit lies particularly in the eloquent language of the writer.

She successfully stirs readers' emotions so that they get carried away upon Sabrina's dreams of her ideal boyfriend and of the mother's love long lost to her. Of course, with such a subject, teenage girls will find this novel the stuff of dreams.

The reviewer has contributed feature stories, book reviews and short stories to various media, including Koran Tempo and Republika dailies. She is currently undertaking book translations in Malang, where she lives.

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