Cover? Title? Author? Recommendation? Placement on the shelf?
I can’t explain why I picked this one up at the library. All of the above except a recommendation. This was placed prominently on a library shelf on my way to the check out station so I grabbed it. I had never heard of Tanya Egan Gibson. Not surprising since this is her first novel.
I’m still struggling to put into words what the story was about or what I think about it. The gist of the story is a wealthy family in an exclusive suburb in New York (new money which means they are looked down on by the old money families – think Kennedys) who are planning the sixteenth birthday party of their only daughter. The father made his money creating some sort of fantastic bra and is obsessed with, well, breasts. The mother came from old money but was disowned when she married her salesman husband so clawing herself back up into the upper echelons of “society” is very important to her. So important that her daughter is a disgrace to her. Carley, said daughter, suffers from acne and is overweight. Two unforgivable sins in this culture. Gretchen, the mother, is constantly trying to outdo the other moms while at the same time actually trying to convince Carley she should get an eating disorder “just for a while” so that she can fit into a more respectable size. (Gretchen is a size 00).
Unfortunately Carley is also not exact a brilliant student either which is yet another source of horror to her mother. Carley hates reading; hates literature of any kind. So, her mother decides that for her Sweet Sixteen she is going to “buy” her daughter a love of reading. In other words, she would find an author to accept a commission, come live with them for several months and write a novel with Carley’s input that Carley would like.
There are so many sub-plots. The characters are not hard to keep track of; but the plot is. My overall sense was that the novel is very satirical. She entwines (sometimes not very well) teen addiction, eating disorders, uber-wealth, sex, adultery, The Great Gatsby, the publishing industry, the television industry, reality television and, not surprisingly, true love or the lack of it. The novel ended as it only could but I won’t give a spoiler here.
I struggle to give it a rating. I did like it, in the sense that it inspired enough interest in me to want to read what happened next but the ending left me feeling ambivalent. She spent a long time on denouement, almost too long since the ending was predictable. So, in effect, the climax was anti-climactic.
I suppose if forced I would give it 2 1/2 stars. Good enough that I didn’t feel my time was wasted but not so good that I felt I came away with anything lasting. I honestly can’t figure out if it was actually really deep or really shallow.
So again, I ask, what makes you pick up a book?