Book Review: You Have No Idea

I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.

I’m a fan of memoirs. The summer after my freshman year of college, I nannied for a family that, for whatever reason, owned a pretty extensive collection of the genre. They parents had a system with their two daughters that they would earn a monetary reward for every book they read that summer, so suffice to say, we spent a lot of time reading.

I would usually just select a title that sounded interesting (judging books by their cover and taking no prisoners), but given the large ratio, they usually ended up memoirs.

The point of all of that is that I was pretty excited to be part of BlogHer Book Club‘s reading of You Have No Idea by Vanessa and Helen Williams.

Obviously, I knew who Vanessa Williams was, but I didn’t really know that much about her career. I didn’t realize she had made history as the first black Miss America. I didn’t know she had such an extensive stage career. I knew nothing about her previous marriages or her children.

But while I can honestly say I learned a lot about Vanessa Williams through her book, I felt sort of unfulfilled when I had finished. I mean, no offense to Vanessa, but I feel like this was sort of written at the wrong time. The truly interesting parts (am I the only one still mildly fascinated by pageants?) were glossed over, and a lot of time was spent discussing her relationships and all her various jobs. Honestly, as I read it, I started to feel like Vanessa was just trying to convince readers that she wasn’t a bad person and that she was still relevant.

And on both counts, I just felt sort of neutral. She seems reckless, but good-hearted. She just seemed kind of…boring. Talented in front of an audience, but boring in real life. It was almost bizarre to me that she had dealt with so much scandal in her life because it just didn’t read as scandalous.

My biggest criticism of the book, though, is that Helen is included at all. She seems like a lovely woman, but after I had finished, I felt like all of her interjections (and occasional chapters) were too few and far between. And when she did speak up, she didn’t really say anything except, “Well, this is what I was thinking when I heard that…” And it was never anything all that interesting.

More than that, though, Helen didn’t really seem like she had that big of an impact on her daughter’s life. Certainly, she was supportive and possibly Vanessa wouldn’t have had the love of performing she did without her parents’ influence, but Vanessa openly admits she was much closer with her late father than her mother. And though she says (at least three times) that she couldn’t have gotten through something without her mother’s support…I just didn’t buy it.

It could be that this is one of those times where she really should have shown more than told, but whenever I read that, my first response was always, “Really? Because it kind of seems like you got through a lot on your own.”

Has anyone else read this book and had a similar feeling? Or a completely different one? I think I was just, in general, underwhelmed. It might have been more interesting to me if I had been a bigger Vanessa Williams fan to start.

Have your own opinions on the book? Join the conversation on BlogHer.com!