Godbersen, A. (2010). Bright young things. New York, NY: Harper.
Plot Summary: Cordelia is forced to marry her boyfriend after they are caught having sex but she convinces her friend Letty to run away to New York with her that night. They get into a fight on their first night in the city and separate. Letty becomes a cigarette girl in a club and tries to make it big as a singer. Meanwhile Cordelia finds her father a famous gangster and joins high society. In doing so she befriends Astrid another young socialite who is dating Cordelia’s half brother. Cordelia encounters trouble when she inadvertently begins dating the son of her father’s rival. After she finds out who he is she decides to keep their relationship a secret until her father is shot in their home and she suspects he had something to do with his murder. Letty is also in trouble after she loses her job and place to live when she skips work for a big singing gig that turns out to be a scam to get her to strip. She tracks down Cordelia and joins her at her father’s house. Meanwhile Astrid caught Cordelia’s brother cheating on her but forgives him after his father’s murder and agrees to marry him.
Critical Evaluation: This book weaves together multiple plot lines as the three girls make their way through the summer. Cordelia and Letty have more interesting plot lines and better character development. Cordelia begins the book as a practical young women who has a lot to learn about navigating the high society world she is trust into. By the end of the book she fits seamlessly into her new life both as a society girl and the daughter of a notorious bootlegger. Letty is very naive at the start of the book she leaves town with no money and no plan as to how she is going to get famous. While she stays very trusting of others she learns that she has to beware of flashy promises and that if she wants to become famous she will have to work hard to get what she wants. Astrid however seems mostly to be caught up in what is happening to other people. She has to move out of her house when her mother is caught having an affair and is going to get a divorce, her relationship with Cordelia’s brother is often in trouble because they do not trust each other and she eventually catches him in bed with another girl. Despite the fact that this has been a consistent problem in their relationship she agrees to marry him.
Reader’s Annotation: In the Summer of 1929 two girls travel to New York City to make their fortune but they get caught up in the seedy side of the city.
Author Information: Anna Godbersen is the author of the Luxe Series and the Bright Young Things Series for young adults and one novel The Blond for adults. She is from Berkeley California and currently lives in Brooklyn New York.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Curriculum Ties: This book is set at the end of the roaring twenties during the last summer of the Jazz age and could be used as an example of the societal changes during this time.
Booktalk Ideas: 1) Which of the three main characters is your favorite?
2) In the prologue it is stated that before the end of the year one of the girls would be married, one would be dead, and one would be famous; Do you have a prediction for which girl will be which?
Reading Level & Interest Level: The reading level for this book is listed as ages 14-17 which seems appropriate for the language and the interest level. The romance and drama of the story is appropriate for this group as well.
Challenge Issues: The book references sex a few times but it is not graphic and is a main aspect of the plot. The book is highly rated and very popular.
Why is it included?: I really liked the Luxe series and thought it would be interesting to compare the Bright Young Things series to it. Overall I actually prefer the Luxe series but they are both very interesting and I can see the appeal they have to teen readers.