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Jamie Lynn, Say Less Next Time

by Maddye Belov-Boxer

Full disclosure: I am not a fan of Jamie Lynn Spears, for reasons that are probably obvious if you have been awake for the past two years. When I learned she was writing a book that was due to come out in the midst of Britney Spears’ struggle for independence, I rolled my eyes so far back in my head that they almost snapped off of their stems.

That being said, I am also a glutton for punishment. I not only resolved to read “Things I Should Have Said,” formerly titled “I Must Confess,” I also decided to write as objective a review of it as possible. And let me tell you, neither have been easy tasks.

First of all, yes, this book, which is meant to be Jamie Lynn’s autobiography, was originally titled after her superstar sister’s song lyrics. Make of that what you will.

Before the book even begins outright, there were some small details that caught my critical eye. As far as I’m aware, Jamie Lynn has been free to write an account of her own life at any time since becoming an adult; making her claim that she has “now…been freed to share mine [her truth]” seems dramatic. It also runs contradictory to her earlier proclamation that she has, seemingly willingly, “remained quiet and kept to [her]self.”

As far as celebrity autobiographies go, it’s no secret that many of them are the work of ghostwriters. It is actually somewhat difficult to discern if this is the case for “Things I Should Have Said.”

If it is the work of a ghostwriter, that explains the patently impersonal and distant tone of the narrative content itself, but not the poor writing and awkward syntax. If it is, however, actually the work of Jamie Lynn, then at least the unpolished style makes sense, but the lack of intimacy and familiarity does not.

The first few chapters of “Things I Should Have Said” map out Jamie Lynn’s rise to child stardom in halting prose. The few anecdotal moments that appear are so sketchily detailed, they may as well not be there at all. From the moment it starts, the narrative feels rushed, skimming over huge chunks of what could be moments for introspection and stopping at strange points to reflect on a random instance that never comes up again.

There is so little emotional investment in much of the book’s beginning that the hardest parts to read are Jamie Lynn’s self-aggrandizement of her child self. This actually starts from the incredibly awkward opening sentence of the first chapter: “The beginning of my story is well known.” Why on earth are you telling it then, Jamie Lynn?

Arguably the strongest section of the book is chapter five, which recounts Jamie Lynn’s first pregnancy at 16. Having a baby when you’re still a child yourself is never an easy set of circumstances, especially under such a spotlight, and perhaps it is more the scenario itself than the fact that it happened to Jamie Lynn that makes this arc sympathetic.

The other most effective chapter deals with her daughter Maddie’s near-death experience, which is frankly harrowing. Clearly, Jamie Lynn has gone through a lot and I do not doubt that she has her own trauma from both her dysfunctional parents and this particular event. But the rest of the book doesn’t even approach a similar level of depth, which is necessary for a memoir.

One of the public’s biggest gripes with “Things I Should Have Said,” besides the timing of its release, is how often Britney is referenced in what is supposed to be Jamie Lynn’s memoir — 315 times, to be exact. Having read it myself, I can officially say Britney definitely gets the raw end of the deal.

Britney is generally characterized in one of three ways in Jamie Lynn’s memoir: an overworked pop superstar, a “second mom” figure to Jamie Lynn or an unstable, mean-spirited inconvenience who has to be dealt with rather than helped. The second is frankly the most infuriating to me, as Jamie Lynn seems to romanticize this “second mom” behavior rather than fully recognizing how wrong it is for her older sister to have to act as her parent. There are even multiple pictures in the book’s photo section of Britney doing Jamie Lynn’s hair or painting her toenails.

The second to last chapter of the book, dedicated solely to what Jamie Lynn feels is the aftermath of Britney’s conservatorship, is a mess of contradictions, deflection and things that definitely should have been said — in private and with no provocation. Suffice it to say you should do your own research if you want to come to a satisfying conclusion because you won’t get one from Jamie Lynn.

Overall, “Things I Should Have Said” is a slog, with long stretches of cyclical thought dotted by self-congratulatory nods. It picks its moments, then promptly sabotages its own efforts to appear genuine and down-to-earth.

I did say I would try to be objective. But “I must confess,” this book was a waste of time.

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