on October 17, 2010
Bright Young Things is a promising start to Anna Godbersen's new series. Set During the final summer of the free-wheeling and tumultuous Roaring Twenties, BYT follows the lives three young ladies, Cordelia, Letty, and Astrid. Cordelia, and Letty, are newly arrived Midwestern transplants who have very different motivations for fleeing home. Astrid is a young flapper with a seemingly picture perfect life. The novel follows them as they navigate the larger than life backdrop of New York in the Jazz Age. Bright Young Things was a very enjoyable book. Well drawn, complex, characters mesh well with the vivid re-creation of New York during this infamous period, with all of its thrills and dangers. The plot of the novel was well paced and sustained and filled with intrigue.I am eagerly awaiting the sequel to see where the lives of our three heroines go from here.
on October 14, 2010
I had super high hopes for this book. I absolutely loved The Luxe series AND I love reading about the time of Prohibition and speakeasies and all that, so this book sounded perfect to me. And it was! It is! It's so good - Bright Young Things didn't disappoint me at all.
The descriptions inspire just as extravagant images as The Luxe series did, if not more so. I loved how the story effortlessly switched from point of view to point of view. I thought I would get at least a little bit confused, but it was really well-done and obvious who's story we were hearing from.
The three leading ladies - Astrid, Cordelia, and Letty - were all very unique characters and I loved how none of them really resembled each other. They all had their own personalities, and their own faults. I couldn't pick a favourite. Letty and Cordelia's friendship really hurt me and made me want to shake them both, but I'm glad that they each had their own story line. It made for a more exciting book than the alternative would have.
I didn't really like any of the guys introduced in Bright Young Things. No, that's not true. I liked Thom. And Charlie, kind of... I don't know. You'll just have to see for yourself! I definitely liked the guys in The Luxe series more, but these guys were just as handsome, but also infuriating. But it makes sense, because of the time period I guess. In The Luxe series, everyone was more uptight and proper, but in Bright Young Things, it's a period of more freedom. So I get it, really. But I still love my Luxe men!
The plot of Bright Young Things was awesomeeeeee. I didn't get bored at all while reading this book. Like I said, I love the time of Prohibition and Bright Young Things was an excellent look on the social and political ongoings of the time period. I loved having the three different views on New York City. And, agh! The last couple of chapters are seriously intense. I need the second book in the series now, please!
This book truly had it all - an interesting beginning, beautiful girls and handsome men, bright lights and a big city, romance, mystery, drama, temptation of the forbidden, secret tunnels, and an explosive ending.
"They were all marching toward their own secret fates, and long before the next decade rolled around, each would escape in her own way--one would be famous, one would be married, and one would be dead."
1929: Cordelia Grey and Letty Larkspur are leaving their stifling Ohio town behind to seek fame and fortune in New York City. With a big voice and hopes to match, Letty knows it's only a matter of time before she hits it big in the biggest city of all. Cordelia is seeking other things--things she can't even tell her best friend Letty without looking like a fool--even if Cordelia knows her future is in New York.
Along the way to their dreams the girls will face hardships and separation. They'll meet cads and swells. One of them will even take up with one of New York's elite flappers--a girl named Astrid Donal.
Everyone comes to New York expecting big things. But Cordelia and Letty will both have to make hard choices to get everything they want while the Jazz Age is still raging in Bright Young Things (2010) by Anna Godbersen.
Bright Young Things is the first book in Godbersen's 1920s series. It is followed by Beautiful Days and The Lucky Ones. (Godbersen is also the author of the bestselling Luxe series.)
I love historical fiction. Show me a book set anywhere between 1900 and 1940 and there is a 99% chance that I will want to read it. I especially love the 1920s and flappers. (I even wrote a research paper in high school about 1920s fashion. But that's another story.) My point in sharing all of this? I am pretty well-read when it comes to 1920s--fashion, social mores, history.
What does that have to do with Bright Young Things? It's part of why I didn't like it more. I wanted to love this book and I wanted to be excited about the series. But after reading so many other books set in the period the plot and setting started to feel very familiar.
Most of the characters in Bright Young Things are privileged; they have money, they have status, they get what they want. They're careless like Tom and Daisy Buchanan. And that is great if you want to re-live the frenzy and decadence of The Great Gatsby. But if you want more nuance or something new, well, that isn't going to be found in Bright Young Things as it treads familiar themes with the decadence of the 1920s, the thrill of speakeasies and the danger of falling for the wrong boy.
My favorite parts of the story were when Letty struck out on her own and found work as a cigarette girl--something I never read about--which was fascinating and ended all too soon. Besides Letty the other characters felt painfully vapid and superficial.
Godbersen lays all of the groundwork for the series with the sprawling prologue and introduction of characters who will be key later in the story. But I never felt excited enough while reading Bright Young Things to feel any urgency in continuing with the series (if I ever will).
This would be a great introductory read for anyone hoping to start reading historical fiction in general or about the 1920s specifically. If you already know about the period and want to move beyond the basics I'd suggest The Diviners by Libba Bray which delves deeper into a variety of areas during the decade albeit in the midst of a supernatural murder investigation.
Possible Pairings: The Diviners by Libba Bray, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, New York City: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Vixen by Jillian Larkin, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel
on February 10, 2015
I found out (alas, too late) that the author's Luxe Series is written for 'young adults.' HOW young? The writing is positively juvenile, like it was written by a ten y/o for her ten y/o friends. Come on, Ms Godbersen. Just because your readers are young doesn't mean they're stupid ... OK, never mind. Some went as far as comparing this author to Scott Fitzgerald. Forgive them, Mr. Fitzgerald, for they know not what they say. That's like comparing Harlequin novels to books about history because the heroines wear period costumes. I suppose we have modern American "education" to thank for this sort of thing? Very little for which to be grateful, unfortunately.
on September 7, 2011
Just in case you were wondering, this is a full length book, but it has a few extra chapters from the next book at the end. The book is enjoyable & a fast read (at least for me), although it is pretty predictable. It was also nice getting some insight into the 20s era right before the stock market crash.
on December 16, 2014
I just finished binge-watching Peaky Blinders, and I just re-read, and was once again disappointed by, The Great Gatsby. I picked this book up because I wanted to read something, anything, set in the 1920s. It didn’t even have to be well-researched or well-written; it just needed to prolong my foray into the world of bootleggers and speakeasies.
I have to admit that I was a bit dubious when I first spied the cover. I mean, come on, a beautiful flapper girl in an ephemeral dress, wearing a Mona Lisa smile? It led me to believe that I’d find something flighty and frivolous and romantic within these pages. Imagine my surprise when, in the first two paragraphs of the book, I found this to be not only much more somber than I first surmised, but also well-researched and well-written:
“It is easy to forget now, how effervescent and free we all felt that summer. Everything fades: the shimmer of gold over White Cove; the laughter in the night air; the lavender early morning light on the faces of skyscrapers, which had suddenly become so heroically tall. Every dawn seemed to promise fresh miracles, among other joys that are in short supply these days. And so I will try to tell you, while I still remember, how it was then, before everything changed – that final season of an era that roared.
By the summer of 1929, when the weather was just getting warm enough that girls could exhibit exactly how high hemlines had risen, Prohibition had been in effect for so long it had ceased to bother anyone much. The city had a speakeasy per every fifty souls, or so the preachers liked to exclaim on Sundays, and sweet-faced girls from the hinterlands were no longer blinded by wood alcohol, for the real stuff had become plenty easy to get. The Eighteenth Amendment had converted us all to grateful outlaws.”
This book was everything I needed and more. Set in New York City during the summer of 1929, it follows the lives, loves and tragedies of three Bright Young Things: Astrid, Cordelia, and Letty. These women flocked to the city along with thousands of others during prohibition because hemlines were higher, the morals were looser, the gin flowed freely, and it was where anyone who had grown too big for their small town went to escape their drab lives in favor of something flashier.
I immediately found myself immersed within their stories. Theirs could be the cautionary tales of any countless real life flappers, heiresses or actresses that strolled the streets of New York during prohibition, and because of Godbersen’s flawless characterization, I found myself forgetting that this was fiction.
Less than a chapter in, I forgot I was even reading. Godbersen’s writing is an art form in and of itself, and sadly, it’s a dying one. In these times of short attention spans and fractured sentences, the long, beautifully descriptive passages of yesteryear are falling to the wayside. It leaves those of us who grew up with the classics and the never-ending, Dickensian style run-on sentences bereft.
So hell yes, Anna Godbersen, for penning these gorgeous, free-flowing, sometimes paragraph long sentences. Never change.
I’m going to go ahead and say something pretty controversial right now. People Who Know What They’re Talking About claim that The Great Gatsby is the quintessential roaring twenties novel. They say that it defines an era. I disagree. Because of the protagonist’s detached personality, I never really feel the frenetic energy that rages all around him. While reading Bright Young Things, I felt it. Hard.
This book perfectly captures what comes to mind when I think about the 1920s. While I was lost within its pages, something magical happened: I felt my feet tapping to the jazz that played inside my head; I heard the tinkling laughter of socialites mixing with the darker chuckles of gangsters; I found my thoughts slowed by gin; I half-turned to catch the eye of the handsome stranger who wasn’t there. I was feverish, infected by the craic of a bygone era. I forgot that I live in a cold world of computers, where people prefer to communicate through devices instead of speaking aloud.
For a few fleeting hours, I lived in a time where anything was possible. Where, for the first time in history, farm girls could find fame on stage. Where coal miners made their fortunes from contraband grain alcohol. Where oil tycoons and cab drivers rubbed elbows at underground boxing matches.
But be warned. Everything is not sunshine and roses within this book. This is not a romance novel. These girls learn hard, believable life lessons, and they’re not easy to love. These are complicated characters; sometimes flighty, sometimes wise beyond their years, sometimes tragically naïve, and sometimes frustratingly selfish. To me, their realistic portrayal was part of the genius of this novel.
Everything goes to hell for them about the 80% mark, and Godbersen builds to this moment flawlessly. By the time I climbed to the climax of the story, I was wound so tight that I was holding my breath, because I knew, I just knew, that heartbreak lay around the turn of the next page. And I was right.
And I loved every minute of it.
Anna Godbersen, author of the bestselling Luxe series, turns her attention to the glittering world of the Roaring 20's in her newest release, Bright Young Things, the first volume in a new series.
Bright Young Things concentrates on the interlocking stories of three attractive but very different young women, dubbed on the series website "the flapper, the heiress, and the starlet." Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey run away together from their stifling Ohio town to the excitement of New York City. Letty, a talented singer, dreams of being discovered and having her name in lights, while Cordelia wants to find the father she has never met, an infamous but charismatic gangster and bootlegger. Cordelia and Letty go their separate ways soon after arriving in New York, but don't worry--twists and turns in the plot that I will not divulge here will bring them together again before the end of the book.
Cordelia's gangster father is delighted when his long-lost daughter walks into his life, and she is quickly enveloped in a life of country clubs, extravagant parties attended by "socialites in feather boas...,gold diggers and gamblers, bankers and bootleggers (what was the difference, really?)", and luxury she could never even have imagined back in Ohio. Meanwhile Letty gets a job as a cigarette girl, struggling to break into show business. Alas, her small town innocence makes life even more difficult in the big city, and she must leave her naivete behind her to succeed.
Cordelia, in the meantime, meets the glamourous Astrid Donal, girlfriend of Cordelia's newfound brother Charlie, who attempts to educate her in the ways of this exciting and dangerous new world she has entered. In a Romeo and Juliet-like twist, Cordelia meets Thom, an incredibly attractive young man--the son of her father's mortal enemy, and soon she is enmeshed in a forbidden romance. Godbersen's next volume in the series comes out in 2011, and she leaves us hanging as all three of our young women pursue dangerous paths to their ultimate destiny (which we won't know until the series concludes!)
Godbersen is a master at appealing to her teenage audience. This new series is filled with the intrigue, romance, and great clothes of the Luxe franchise. She fills her book with juicy descriptions of this colorful Roaring Twenties period, from luxurious Long Island estates covered with "impossibly green lawns" to seedy boarding houses, to smoky speakeasies filled with flappers. The book is further complemented by photo essays on each of the main characters on the lively website for her books. Godbersen's many fans are sure to enjoy this newest series, and it's a good purchase for YA collections at libraries and schools.
on November 27, 2011
I feel like this story could have taken place in any other decade and been exactly the same. I was really hoping for more insight into the Roaring 20's, but instead got a few mentions of flimsy, sparkling dresses and people peacefully drinking their illegal liquor. Where was the excitement and the glamor?!
The writing was also pretty dense, with paragraph long sentences. By time I'd get to the period, I forgot what the sentence was about.
Example 1: "By then she knew that the flaky, crescent-shaped pastries they brought in the morning were called croissants, and she had gathered--although she still hadn't heard anything to confirm it--that the bizarre flowers filing the tall, rectangular silver vases all over the room were calla lilies, even though they were more austere and futuristic than any lily she had ever seen, like flowers that grew on the moon."
Example 2: "She cried for being so stupid, and she cried for the man who'd lost his life, for the things she'd known about him and the things should now never know, and she cried for the carefree, privileged world that had been hers for only a few glorious weeks, and she cried for all the years no one had loved her and all the many future years when no one would love her again."
Aside from those two negatives, the story was interesting and moved at a decent pace (although I wished for more excitement earlier on!). It's hard to write this without comparing it to Vixen by Jillian Larkin, which I think is definitely the better 20's era read, even though there are quite a few similarities between the characters and plot. However, the final chapter was much better, and makes me want to find out what happens next.
on September 12, 2011
If you combined "Gossip Girl" with F. Scott Fitzgerald, you would have this book. While ordinarily, that might not prompt me to download, I enjoyed reading this a great deal.
The three main characters - Letty, Cordelia, and Astrid - are different enough in personality and circumstance to keep the story interesting. Side characters are introduced with the appropriate level of detail and are also clearly distinguishable. And I felt like the author did a good job of conveying part of what it must have been like to be young and pretty in New York City in 1929.
This is a full length book. I think the publisher understood that the series is interesting enough that the first book can be given away for free. I know it worked for me - I plan on buying and reading the next book when it comes out later this month.
on May 12, 2012
I can't compare this book with the author's other series since I haven't read that one, but I can say that I want to read the other books in this series as I enjoyed Bright Young Things so much. When I finished the book at 2:00 a.m. I read the bonus chapters from the next book in the sequel, Beautiful Days, but am reluctant to spend $9.99 for an ebook! Hopefully the price will come down or become a freebie and I will pick it up.
Bright Young Things starts out in 1929 with a couple young girls leaving their lives on the farm and heading to the big city -- New York -- to follow their dreams. The story moves quickly and the reader will not be bored. The characters are very likeable and the book is a good stand alone novel, but does leave you wanting to know what comes next! It's also fun to look back at that era and realize how much has changed in a relatively short time and how modern conveniences and technology have added to our lives.