Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Genre: Young adult
Publisher, Year: Harper Collins, 2007
Other Works: Rumors
Flags: Teen angst, tenuous references
Rating: B-, or Not Sorry I Read It
Premise: The goings-on of upper class, turn of the century New York society girls.

This book is just plain fun. Another book club pick, and I’m glad because I don’t know that I would have read it otherwise. The description just didn’t appeal to me: Manhattan socialites wending their way through their charmed lives. But, it turns out that I “can be taught.” It kind of makes me giggle, this book.

The story opens with the funeral of Elizabeth Holland, the older daughter of a prominent family. We get first glances of each character as they make their way in. Then the story rewinds, and we are privy to the action as it plays out, knowing what is ahead. There are several narrators, each telling their story from their one-sided perspective, which makes for plenty of dramatic irony. A surprise engagement resolves some problems, while causing others, and sends some characters into a tailspin. As tempers and stakes rise, all leads up to that dreadful event.

I can see why there would be those who didn’t like this book. The writing is fine, and gets the job done, but there’s not much memorable about it. I usually don't like books that have too many narrators—it just ends up being confusing, and sometimes I think it's just lazy writing. However, I liked it for this book because it built up the tension that was sure to explode. I found it very amusing.

Surprisingly, I actually liked this book from the start. I liked Elizabeth, even though she was a somewhat flat character, because I wanted her to listen to her heart. And although she makes a command decision in the end, which I have to say can’t come as a shock to anyone who is even mildly paying attention, she is a rather weak character. Although she frequently thinks about taking a stand, she never really does and allows herself to be influenced by practically everyone else. The real main character was Diana, who I found funny, although she acted like she was trying a little bit too hard. I enjoyed her lust for life—she was ready to rough it on the streets of New York and go “bohemian” if they lost their fortune. She’s got spunk, although that optimism could definitely use a dose of reality. I also liked that the book wasn’t chuck full of Penelopes. There was just one Penelope, and let’s face it, in a book like this, you need one mean girl with no soul. Most of the characters were on the weak side, but I felt that many were exhibiting some potential in the end, especially Henry who I spent despising pretty much the whole time. I am even tempted to pick up number two. I could definitely picture myself cuddling up with this series with a nice hot cup of cocoa on the many upcoming cold winter nights. Overall, not what you would call high art, but entertaining enough.

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