From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up–In 1978, James left her Maryland farm and abusive father to become a model in New York City. She lived at the Barbizon Hotel for Women for a few days and then was basically homeless. She and her scrappy, similarly aspiring friends squat in various unpleasant and unsafe places. She was hit on by all manner of disgusting men. James's writing is understated, even simplistic. She tells the story of her younger self as if she weren't very bright. The narrative flashes back to her childhood abuse so awkwardly there should be flashback theme music and a dissolving screen. James's depiction of the underbelly and excesses of pre-Guiliani New York is fascinating–she even saw children in cages at Studio 54. Unfortunately, that's the highpoint of the whole story. The action never engages. Life moved along slowly. Sure, things got worse then marginally better for the struggling model. And sure she had an abusive father. Both seem strangely diffuse, though–as if James holds the pain at arm's length. Lead interested girls to Jeannette Walls's excruciating and beautiful Glass Castle (Scribner, 2005) instead.–Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
A tough but naive 16-year-old country girl flees a brutal, disturbed father to try for a modeling career in the Big Apple. In this episodic memoir, James recalls her early experiences: living on a $3-per-day budget in the back room of an agency; sneaking into a cheap hotel to use the communal shower; looking for work on perpetually blistered feet; making tight women friends but often feeling “like I’m catnip to every borderline pedophile in Manhattan”; losing her virginity to an older man she comes to despise; and, ultimately, making enough doing ad work to get an apartment (roach infested, but still) of her own. She also becomes something of a witness to history, as she gains a replacement father figure in Buddy Jacobson, a secretive but sociable landlord who was convicted (wrongly, as she plainly believes) of a Mob-style hit on his ex-girlfriend’s fiancé. Readers will learn more about the seamy underside of late 1970s New York than the actual ins and outs of modeling, but James delivers healthy doses of humor and poignancy in fluent present-tense prose. Grades 9-12. --John Peters