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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Release Date: October 12, 2010
Paperback Release: August 2, 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-book
Source: Purchased
Pages: 416
Series: Bright Young Things #1
Buy: Fountain Bookstore / Amazon
Description: Goodreads
The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star…

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined—and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for . . . and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall—together and apart. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Luxe comes an epic new series set in the dizzying last summer of the Jazz Age.
I’ve had a fairly hard time figuring out how to review Bright Young Things. It’s not that I didn’t like it. It’s more that I have few strong feelings about it one way or another. There were portions that I enjoyed, like descriptions of the gorgeous 1920’s attire or the different vibe from an older New York; other portions, not so much. So, let’s go through this by singling out each of Anna Godbersen’s threesome: Cordelia Grey, Letty Larkspur, and Astrid Donal.

Cordelia’s story gave me the strongest feelings of any of the plots in Bright Young Things. She came to New York to confront famous bootlegger Darius Grey, claiming to be his daughter. Without so much as a call to the 1920’s Maury Povich, he accepted her. Immediately, I questioned this, wondering why Darius never said or did anything throughout the rest of the novel to officially prove that he was, in fact, Cordelia’s father. However, I did value the time she spent with her father once he took her into his extravagant home. What angered me more about Cordelia’s tale, though, was her relationship with rival bootlegger’s son Thom Hale. Cordelia established herself as a head-strong girl who couldn’t be tamed, but the moment she began to think with her heart instead of her head it proved to be disastrous. Her story has a ton of unanswered questions for the follow-up novel entitled Beautiful Days, especially pertaining to her all-but-forgotten husband back in Ohio, so I look forward to seeing just how that plays out.

Letty did not win me over the way I thought she would at this story’s beginning. She traveled from Ohio to Manhattan with her best friend Cordelia as a poor country girl with a large talent, naively hoping that she would magically become the next Mary Pickford. It was this naivety that drove me a little batty, to be honest. So much of her character arc developed too predictably for me- everything from her friendship with the obviously-gaga-for-her Grady to her oblivious acceptance to “perform solo” for a well-known theater owner and lothario unfolded quite obviously to me. I tried to warn her, but that was the reading equivalent of yelling, “Don’t go check in the basement!” to the blonde baby-sitter in a slasher film. Part of this is because, growing up so many decades after these events would take place, I have the curse of knowledge. Hopefully, Letty will learn from her past mistakes, grow a bit, and win me over yet.

While Astrid did not appeal to me as a narrator at her beginning, she grew on me over the course of Bright Young Things. Her spoiled tendencies and elitist attitude raked my nerves, but as I read on, I started to feel pity for the girl who, quite frankly, didn’t have anyone that truly cared about her. Her only family was her debutante mother, and she was too busy husband hopping (or new husband shopping) to notice anyone but herself, and her boyfriend Charlie Grey was far too self-absorbed. When she found a stray earring in Charlie’s room, I thought we were looking at a simple case of Sleazy Cheater Boyfriend, but I liked how this arc took an unexpected turn. I also liked her relationship with Cordelia, mostly because a genuine girl like Cordelia would be the best kind of person for Astrid to befriend. I am most interested to see how Astrid’s story develops in Beautiful Days.

Overall, while not my favorite, Bright Young Things managed to entertain me, and I think it would make an excellent Saturday afternoon movie. Moreover, it made me ache for a wardrobe filled with seamed stockings, adorable shoes, tweed cloches, and swishy dresses. I now anticipate the continuing adventure of these three dames (and someone to accompany me on a vintage dress shopping spree).

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