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Trading Up Hardcover – July 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

Janey Wilcox is an M.A.W. (that's Model/Actress/Whatever to the uninitiated). The problem with Janey, the protagonist of Candace Bushnell's first novel, Trading Up, is not the M or the A part. It's the W. Here is a rare alphabetical anomaly: In Janey's case, W stands for "prostitute." Oh, Janey never crosses the line into actual hookerdom, but she does sleep with extremely wealthy men in the hopes they'll improve her status, her financial situation, or her lifestyle. When we first met Janey in Bushnell's novella collection 4 Blondes, she was up to her usual tricks (so to speak)--scamming a guy for a Hamptons vacation rental. At the opening of Trading Up, her fortunes have improved. She's now the star of a Victoria's Secret ad campaign, and as such she's found access to undreamed-of echelons of New York society. She makes friends with Mimi Kilroy, a senator's daughter "at the very top of the social heap in New York." She gets invited to all the best parties. And she finally finds a wealthy man who will actually marry her: Seldon Rose, a powerful entertainment industry executive. Of course, Janey's social ambitions are not stoppered by her marriage to Seldon, and the clash between her expectations (more parties!) and his (normal life) send Janey into a tailspin that leads to heartbreak. Bushnell is clearly trying to channel Edith Wharton (The Custom of the Country is even invoked by Janey as a screenplay idea), but ends up sounding a lot more like a cross between Tama Janowitz and Judith Krantz. This is a novel about shopping and sex, and while it's fizzy enough, it's not Cristal. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

"It was the beginning of the summer of the year 2000, and in New York City, where the streets seemed to sparkle with the gold dust filtered down from a billion trades in a boomtown economy, it was business as usual." In other words, it is business as usual for bestselling author Bushnell (Sex and the City; 4 Blondes), who expands here on the career of shallow, predatory Janey Wilcox. In 4 Blondes, Wilcox was a mildly famous one-time model who bedded men based on their ability to provide her with a great house in the Hamptons for the summer. Now she has become a Victoria's Secret model, a bona fide success in her own right. As the latest summer in the Hamptons kicks off, Wilcox becomes the new best friend of the socialite Mimi Kilroy, who is eager to introduce beautiful Janey to the very rich Selden Rose, the new head of the HBO-like MovieTime. Unlike Janey's many previous hookups, Selden is the marrying kind. What ensues is a grim if well-observed account of a match made in hell. Here's the problem. There is a black hole in the center of the book in the form of Janey Wilcox, a character so dull and humorless that she makes this whole elaborate enterprise one long, boring slog. Granted, Bushnell sets out to chronicle the workings of "one of those people for whom the superficial comfortingly masks an inner void," but Wilcox is not evil enough to be interesting, not talented enough to be Mr. Ripley. Wilcox proceeds from model/prostitute to "Model/Prostitute" on the cover of the Post. But who will care? Bushnell has committed the real crime here: failure to entertain.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; 1st edition (July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078686818X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786868186
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (252 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,851,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Candace Bushnell is the critically acclaimed, international best-selling novelist whose first book, Sex and the City, published in 1996, was the basis for the HBO hit series. Bushnell captured the country's attention with Sex and the City by breaking down the bedroom doors of New York City's rich and beautiful to expose true contemporary stories of sex, love and relationships. The book introduced the nation to "modelizers," "toxic bachelors" and the women who are looking for Mr. Big as they glide in and out of a star-studded social scene. With Four Blondes (2000), Bushnell gave readers another uncensored look into the mating rituals of the Manhattan elite. In each of this book's four linked novellas, Bushnell uses wry humor and frank portrayals of love and lust to deliver clever, hilarious and socially relevant portraits of women in New York City. Four Blondes was a critical and commercial hit. And the successes of Sex and the City and Four Blondes created high demand for a new genre of fiction; the chick-lit phenomenon had begun. Bushnell's third novel, Trading Up (2003) is a wickedly funny social satire about a lingerie model whose reach exceeds her grasp and whose new-found celebrity has gone to her head. The book takes place in the months leading up to 9/11, and portrays an era of wearily decadent society in New York. A sharply observant, keenly funny comedy of manners Trading Up is Bushnell at her most sassy and entertaining; this novel caused the The New York Times to call Bushnell "the philosopher queen of a social scene." A movie of Trading Up is currently in production at Lifetime Television. In Lipstick Jungle (2005), her fourth novel, Bushnell explores assumptions about gender roles in family and career. The book follows three high-powered friends as they weather the ups and downs of lives lived at the top of their game. Salon called Bushnell's work "ahead of the curve" Once again, with Lipstick Jungle, Bushnell captured the paradigm of a new breed of career woman facing modern challenges and choices. Lipstick Jungle became the basis for the popular drama on NBC, currently in its second season, and starring Brooke Shields, Kim Raver, Lindsay Price and Andrew McCarthy. Bushnell serves as an executive producer on the show. Bushnell's new novel, One Fifth Avenue, is a modern-day story of old and new money, the always combustible mix that Edith Wharton mastered in her novels about New York's Gilded Age and that F. Scott Fitzgerald illuminated in his Jazz Age tales. Bushnell's New Yorkers suffer the same passions as those fictional Manhattanites from eras past: thirst for power, for social prominence, and for marriages that are successful-at least to the public eye. "Here are bloggers and bullies, misfits and misanthropes, dear hearts and black hearts, dogfights and catty squalls spun into a darkly humorous chick-lit saga," says Publisher's Weekly. Through her books and television series, Bushnell's work has influenced and defined two generations of women. She is the winner of the 2006 Matrix Award for books (other winners include Joan Didion and Amy Tan), and a recipient of the Albert Einstein Spirit of Achievement Award. Bushnell grew up in Connecticut and attended Rice University and New York University. She currently resides in Manhattan.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A. Sharp on June 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is the first book that I have read by Candace Bushnell and I was very disappointed. Instead of wasting the paper it was printed on, the story should have instead been made into a cheesy Lifetime movie starring Tori Spelling. The plot was slow, boring and predictable while the main characters were detestable. Don't waste your time reading this book!
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Julia Flyte TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a pretty mediocre book. Its worst flaw is that every one of the characters is so downright despicable that you end up not caring a jot what happens to any of them. You find yourself hoping that Janey will get her come-uppance, but unfortunately when she does, it's short-lived. The writing is barely okay, certainly nothing outstanding, and the plot development is sluggish.
On the positive side, Candace Bushnell obviously knows the Manhattan social scene well and at times you feel that the descriptions are depressingly accurate. I say depressing because it comes across as being such a shallow and superficial world that I am happy to be well removed from it. It's kind of fun to guess at the inspiration behind some of the characters - Gwyneth Paltrow, Rupert Everett, Anna Wintour, Aerin Lauder...
I continued with this book hoping it would get better. It didn't. It's not the worst book that I've read, but I still wouldn't recommend it.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By kaduzy VINE VOICE on February 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I tried so hard to finish this book, just so I could say I finished it. I think I have like 20 pages to go, but I can go no further. This book has NO redeeming qualities. It is poorly written: with 20 pages or so to go, I can detect no sign of an actual plot. Is the "heroine" Janey Wilcox going to change from a shallow, vapid model into a shallow, vapid movie producer? Will she leave her rich husband for a richer one? Who knows? And who cares. This book features a main character I could care less about. In fact, NONE of the characters with the possible exception of Seldon (Janey's husband) are even LIKEABLE. I kept hoping Janey would get hit by a bus crossing 5th avenue, or maybe trip on a heel and break her neck. I couldn't STAND her. And the characters around her, obviously crafted to make her seem sympathetic, only made her seem worse by comparison, because they are all such hideous people. After 400 pages, this book has gone nowhere, and quite frankly, I'm not even convinced that Candance Bushnell knows what she's talking about. This is nothing like "Sex and the City" -- it's snooze in the city, and it just doesn't get better with time. Zero stars for a zero-caliber book. Thank God I only paid three bucks for it at a used sale. No wonder the previous owner wanted to get rid of it! This is one of the worst books I've ever read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By lteng on March 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This has got to be one of the worst books I have ever read. I have read many books in which although I did not particularly like the main characters, they were at least tolerable. I can't say the same for Janey, the "protagonist" of this novel. Not only is she the most selfish and snotty characters I've ever come across, she is malicious and disgustingly manipulative.

This is not confined to only her. Most of Busnell's characters in this book are shallow and one dimensional, and even the characters with whom the reader should symphatize are depicted as pitifully weak and naive and deserve no symphaty for their utter stupidity.

Throughout the book I kept hoping that I would come across some reedeming quality that would make me at least sympathetic towards her but was sorely disappointed. The only reason why I finished the book was because I didn't want to waste the $13 that I had paid for the book.

I would not recommend this book to anybody unless they are looking for a book to feed to the shredder.
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Kristi Ahlers on April 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The main character in Ms. Bushnell's story "Trading Up" is one of the most annoying character's that I've read in a long time. I liked her somewhat in the story "4 Blondes" but she is shallow, and very selfish. I found this a difficult book to enjoy since the main character was such a snot and the nasty way she used people and treated people that were close to her, never mind how she treated and used people that were simply in her way also became rather tedious.
I found that although the overall story about improving ones life through social connections could have been fun this one just really fell short of the mark. IF on the other hand you like shallow, self involved characters then this is the book for you.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jane Austen "Barb" on September 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The fundamental problem with this book is the main character, Janey. Yes, there are real people like her (and yes, I'm thinking of Paris Hilton) but would you really want to read their biography? It takes a very talented writer to take a basically unsympathetic character and make her sympathetic, but Candace Bushnell is not that writer. Janey has been compared to Scarlett O'Hara and Becky Sharp, but while she is as manipulative and ruthless as they are, she does not have their charm or their vulnerability, which makes these characters intriguing and yes, even likable, despite their shenanigans. Janey is one-dimensional and boring, and although the book is entertaining enough, it could have been so much better.
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