Rummanah Aasi
  I really enjoyed Judy Blundell's debut and National Book Award winning novel, What I Saw and How I Lied, and was excited when her book was released this year. Strings Attached returns to themes of lies and secrets. Unlike many historical fiction novels, String Attached takes place in the less written era, at least in the YA realm, of the 1950s.

Description: When she drops out of school and struggles to start a career on Broadway in the fall of 1950, seventeen-year-old Kit Corrigan accepts help from an old family friend, Nate Benedict, a lawyer said to have ties with the mob. Kit isn't all that surprised that Nate asks her to do some favors for him, but she never thought he would ask her to keep tabs on Billy, Nate's son and Kit's former sweetheart.

Review: Everything changes for Kit Corrigan on November 1950 in New York City. Kit drops out of out of high school in Providence to pursue dancing and acting on Broadway and ends her relationship with Billy Benedict, a college boy and the son of a powerful mob lawyer. A fraternal triplet whose mother died in childbirth, Kit has been raised by a working-class father with the sometime help of his sister, Delia. Her brother, Jamie, and Billy have enlisted in the Korean War. In New York, Kit's talent and gorgeous red hair help land her in the chorus of a quick-to-close Broadway show. Her money begins to dwindle and an offer from Mr. Nate Benedict conveniently shows up to offer a deal that she can't ignore: a cozy apartment and an audition to be a Lido Doll, a member of a exclusive night club, as long as she does little favors for him. Nearly homeless and barely living from one small paycheck to the next, Kit doesn't see what harm those favors could be and accepts. Soon she finds out that the on-goings at the club get increasingly sinister and Kit almost immediately regrets her decision but is unable to prevent a future tainted by heartache, deception, and murder. The web of lies that Kit finds herself entangled in go beyond the nightclub and is somehow correlated to the disappearance of Aunt Delia. The past and present collide as Kit tries to find out the truth.
  Blundell vividly describes the life and times of the 1950s era. I immediately found myself immersed in Kit's world. The dialogue, attention to clothes, fashion, and music are perfectly and expertly detailed. There is no denying that Blundell loves history. Fans of history and theater will find a lot of things to appreciate here, but other readers may become a bit bored with the overly descriptive narrative as the story circles back and forth through the years of Kit's life including her Great Depression childhood and her family's bootlegging past. Sometimes the narrative became a bit too wordy for me, paragraphs  are written where a few sentences could suffice. In fact a lot of the twists and turns in the story were actually anti-climatic as I predicted them before they were revealed.
  Besides Kit, the feisty, ambitious teen who wants to rush into adulthood head on, I had a hard time connecting with the other characters. I like to picture myself as a character in the book and to actively participate in the story, with Strings Attached however, I always felt like a stage director watching the scenes unfold from a large distance. The romance between Kit and Billy was there, but I didn't feel it. I liked that Blundell addressed the prejudices of the time especially with the Irish American community and the beginning of the Red Scare, but this angle wasn't explored as much as I would have liked. I found myself putting down the book quite a lot and completely forgetting about it.
  I actually think Strings Attached would work more as a movie than as a book. Perhaps it would be easier to see the characters and background scenes play out on the screen instead of reading them thus making it a bit more personal and approachable. Nonetheless I would recommend this book for fans of historical fiction and those who love an old fashioned family drama out of the 1950s. I liked this book, but I enjoyed What I Saw and How I Lied much more.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some mild language, a few allusions to sex, and a few scenes of underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 9-12.

If you like this book try: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Two Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
5 Responses
  1. I agree that I liked "What I Saw" much better. Also, I thought the plot fairly predictable -- but I do enjoy the way Blundell can describe a particular time in history, and I'll keep reading what she's writing! Great review.

  2. I'm not really one for historical fiction or predictable plotlines, so this one probably wouldn't work for me, but I would probably check out the movie, even if it was made for TV.

  3. I'm picky about my historical fiction books so I'll probably skip this one. While I like that the history is really detailed, huge amounts of description, emotional disconnect from characters and a predictable plot make me think that I won't really like this one. Thanks for the review!

  4. I do love historical fiction, and the premise is really promising. I'll be honest - the characters sound a bit surface-only, but I'm tempted to try it if I ever have time. It truly does sound like it would make a great movie! Awesome review :)

  5. Annette: I think Kit lacked the insight and discovery that Evie had in "What I saw and how I lied".

    Missie: It's very rare that I think a movie would work better than the book.

    Candiangirl: I would have been fine with a predictable plot but the disconnect of the characters left me cold and bored.

    Melissa: Unfortunately, you're right about the characters. None of them are really that memorable but I do like the way this author writes so I'll probably check out her other books.

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