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I'm a librarian based in the UK who loves books. I'm happiest when I'm either talking about them, reading them or buying them. This blog is dedicated mainly to my addiction to YA fiction but you will also find some adult and non-fiction book reviews as well.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Review: Bright Young Things - Anna Godbersen

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, published by Puffin on 6th January 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
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.


Review:
As well as loving young adult fiction, I also read a lot of literary classics, particularly 19th century fiction and ‘The Great Gatsby’ is one of my favourites.  Although it’s set a few years before this book, when I heard about ‘Bright Young Things’ and the fact that it takes place in 1929, I immediately thought of Jay, Gatsby and Daisy – the roaring twenties, prohibition and the glittering lights of New York City. 
I haven’t actually read Anna Godbersen’s Luxe series yet (although I really want to) but I know that they have absolutely amazing covers and ‘Bright Young Things’ joins them in being really eye-catching and stylish.  I’m a sucker for a pretty book and I think I would almost have picked this up on the cover alone.  It also meant that I was coming to Godbersen’s writing fresh.  I love her use of description that perfectly conjures up the sights and sounds of the big city and transports you back to a moment in time during a different era. 
The story centres around three girls – Letty Larkspur, Cordelia Grey and Astrid Donal.  Alternating chapters tell of their adventures in the big city.  The contrasting viewpoints of the three very different characters meant that the narrative remained interesting and varied.  The girls set out with individual agendas.  Letty Larkspur has arrived in New York to make her name and become famous.  She has a beautiful singing voice but she’s naive and inexperienced in the ways of the world and easily taken advantage of.  She believes that everything is going to fall into her lap but she suffers a serious of setbacks which shake her faith in the world.  Although she can be rather shy and self-conscious, I admired her bravery in leaving her family behind and striking out on her own.
She comes to New York with her best friend Cordelia, although the two part ways almost immediately on arrival.  I thought it was a little strange that the two girls who were so obviously close would have parted company so quickly over a small falling out but then I guess in a lot of ways they want different things and although Letty initially feels like she needs the braver Cordelia, Cordelia is strong enough to survive on her own.
Cordelia’s come to New York to find her father and this particular storyline is concluded quite quickly.  It might have been more interesting if she’d maybe stumbled across the wrong man and we’d seen the consequences of this.  Cordelia, although she has various faults, was my favourite character and I enjoyed reading the chapters about her the best.  She’s sometimes selfish but she’s also seeking her independence and freedom and learning to survive on her own two feet.
Astrid Donal is a contrasting character to the other two girls.  She lives with wealth and decadence all around her and wants for nothing.  This however, doesn’t necessarily make her happy.  I suspect that there’s a lot more to be revealed about Astrid later in the series and I get the impression that she may be hiding a very dark secret.
I liked the fact that the book was set in 1929 because it meant that we could see the girls branching out on their own in a period when America was prospering.  Obviously in late 1929, the Wall Street Crash was a significant event for many Americans, so it will be interesting to see if this is incorporated into the next book in the series, Beautiful Days which is published in September 2011.  I can't wait.
‘Bright Young Things’ was a real treat to read and I’m so glad that it’s only the first in the series because I want to learn more about all the girls and follow them on their journeys.

Thanks to the publisher for sending this one for review.

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