A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

Song Pairing: “Never Really Cared” by Banfi Listen Here / 2019 HELLO YELLOW REVIEWS PLAYLIST (Spotify)Listen Here / 2019 HELLO YELLOW REVIEWS Playlist (Apple)

“She’s your best friend. She knows all your secrets. That’s why she’s so dangerous.”

I love that tagline because it’s the truest sentiment in the world. Our best friends, our most trusted comrades, know all our dirty little secrets. Trust can be hard won or given freely– either way, it’s a leap of faith and sometimes it takes a while to find out if that leap was met with a net or a splat.

One part Cruel Intentions, two parts Gone Girl, A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell is an absolute guilty pleasure; its merits do not warrant those comparisons, but the elements are there all the same.

The film adaptation starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick might as well be from a completely separate universe from the book. I’ll compare as we go. In both iterations, Emily and Stephanie are both mothers. Their sons become fast friends at school. Emily, sophisticated and stylish, befriends Stephanie, a cutesy mommy-blogger. One afternoon, Emily calls Stephanie and asks for a simple favor. Can she watch her son for the night while she works late? That’s the last Stephanie hears from Emily. Her disappearance rocks Stephanie’s world and leaves her behind with Emily’s husband to play detective and perhaps unwittingly step into Emily’s perfect life.

Book Stephanie is the absolute worst. The first third of this novel was almost unbearably dull, with the incessant “hi moms!” mommy-blogger drivel. Stephanie is simple, gullible, unsophisticated and dull. If that’s harsh, it’s because I loved Book Emily so much. Her prose stood out as something tangible versus Book Stephanie’s yawning on. Of course, Anna Kendrick’s version of Stephanie is compulsively likable and insanely adorable. While in the book you root for twisted, sadistic Book Emily, in the movie you’ll root for bubbly Anna Kendrick all the way.

Blake Lively is the ultimate in chic bitch. I adored her take on Emily; Blake Lively retained the essence of the puppet master while keeping her likable all the same. Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively together was a dream dynamic for a film. I liked the movie way more than the book up to the ending–that’s where the roads diverge, never to meet again.

SPOILERS

In the movie, Blake’s Emily and Anna’s Stephanie face off in a battle to the death. Their alliances are revealed, Emily is thwarted, the good guys win, the end. I was a little sour about that, but I understand that makes for a better wrap-up than the book.

But the book is so much more rewarding–Book Emily convinces Book Stephanie to go along with her insanity. Solidarity, sisters! Stephanie is unaware she’s being super duped, while Emily is pulling her strings behind the scenes like a skilled manipulator. She gets away with it.

I love it when they get away with it.

Overall, I’d skip the book and go rent the movie, unless you have a long drive. The Audible version of A Simple Favor is only eight hours and the voice actors are divine.

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