Rummanah Aasi
  I had an enjoyable mini-vacation. The weather held up and was actually sunny. Unfortunately, I didn't plan on getting sick and being in bed for 3 out of the 4 days but I did manage to finish a few books. The first one I finished was Bright Young Things which is a new series written by Anna Godbersen who is also the author of the popular Luxe series. The Luxe series was my guilty pleasure of 2009 and my palpable version of Gossip Girl.

Description: It is 1929. Three women, Astrid, Cordelia, and Letty, are care-free girls who are seeking for adventure and love in New York. They each envisioned their perfect life and will achieve their dreams no matter what and are willing to pay the cost. The lives and fortunes of these three women will rise and fall, both together and apart, during the infamous prohibition. When you are young, beautiful, rich, and full of optimism, what can go wrong?

Review: Readers who have read the Luxe series will be very familiar with the format of Bright Young Things. As the book opens, Cordelia and Letty, are two newly arrived Midwestern transplants who have very different motivations for fleeing their boring and stifling Ohio home in order to seek a new thrilling life in New York City. Cordelia is seeking a father, who she has never known, but who might be a famous, wealthy bootlegger. Letty, who comes from a large family, desperately wants to become a performer just like her mother and get out of her shell. Astrid, unlike the other two women, is a young flapper who has a seemingly picture perfect life: wearing expensive clothing, attending numerous parties, etc. Readers follow these ladies as they navigate their way in the larger than life backdrop of New York in the Jazz Age.  
 Bright Young Things is not deceiving. The prologue is very straightforward and alerts its readers what awaits them. It is a historical fiction filled with scandals, betrayal, and love affairs gone wrong. After reading the prologue, the omnipresent, third person narrator tells us exactly what will happen:

They were all marching toward their own secret fates, and long before the decade rolled around, each would escape their own way--one would be famous, one would be married, and one would be dead.

The fun with Godbersen's books isn't knowing what will happen, but rather who will things happen to.

  Normally, I breeze through Godbersen's books because of their fast plots and being absorbed on all of the insanity taking place in the characters lives. Unfortunately, I had to put Bright Young Things down several times due to its unbalanced writing, minimal plot and character development. The book is filled with 90% of description, which is something Godbersen is very good at writing. While I was able to be transported back in time to the 1920s, I had a hard time caring for the characters or being interested in the snail pace plot. While the historical details were vivid and appealing, it did become too gratuitous and well...boring. The details got so cumbersome that it took me completely out of the story and I completely forgot about it. I finally skimmed a lot of the description so I could get to plot or dialogue. I got the sense that Godbersen either didn't know how to write her characters or was just starting to figuring out what she wanted to do with the book.
  After a promising prologue and first chapter, the book falls flat and left me with a lot of issues. There is nothing striking or memorable about our three protagonists. Cordelia feels she is entitled to a better lifestyle. By coincidence she meets a wealthy bootlegger who just so happens to have her same last name and convinces him almost immediately that she is his daughter. This circumstance just happened way too quickly and easily for me. How can a man, of that high stature, just take any random girl and accept her as his daughter without any further questioning? I found this hard to swallow even when I tried suspending my disbelief.
  Letty is your quintessential naive farm girl who has no clue about the city life. There were moments where I did feel sorry for her, but I knew what would happen several pages before she did. Her connection to Cordelia isn't really defined. They are not really best friends as Letty believes, but come across as good acquaintances who happen to live in the same neighborhood and have the same desire to have a better life. Due to their lack of warmness or importance towards one another, their fight which sets them apart is neither anticlimactic nor surprising. It is just meh.
  When Cordelia is embraced by her father, she meets the flapper Astrid and they instantly become best friends. Again I found it hard to believe that anyone from a wealthy class immediately accepts a lower class girl like Cordelia. Astrid is your cliched spoiled rich girl who hides behind a facade of living the perfect life. While she says she fully commits to her boyfriend, she shamelessly flirts with other guys and quickly becomes bored when she is not in someone's spotlight. She really annoyed me.
  As for the plot, there is nothing that really surprised me. I had a feeling of how things were going to happen to each of the characters. I didn't care for any of the girl's potential love interests. I am hoping that second book will make up for the lackluster plot, absent characters, and give me what Godbersen does best: a social commentary of history. The only reason why I will pick up the second book in this series is because I'm curious how the author addresses the Great Depression, which is on the horizon for the characters. If you're really looking to see Godbersen's talent, then definitely check out the Luxe series and put this one on the back burner or at least check it out from your library.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: Since this is the era of the Prohibition, abundant underage drinking and smoking takes place as well as a few allusions to sex.

If you like this book try: Vixen by Jillian Larkin, Gatsby's Girl by Caroline Preston, or The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen
2 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I think I'll pass on this one. While some description is nice, I don't like to be smothered in it and then given characters that aren't very interesting. Cordelia sounds like she would be very frustrating, I have little patience for girls like her! Thanks for such an honest review Rummanah!

  2. I was a bit disappointed with this one, but I trust the author to do a better job with the second book or at least I hope. Definitely give The Luxe series a try.

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