Strings Attached: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Strings Attached by Judy BlundellKit Corrigan has a lot of hopes and dreams when she gets to New York City in the autumn of 1950. What she doesn’t have is a steady job, a room of her own, or any surety that she has what it takes to make it. Back in Providence, Rhode Island Kit left behind her family. She hasn’t heard from her boyfriend Billy, or her brother, since they enlisted.

It seemed like such a good idea to drop out of high school and move to New York and make her way in the theater. But maybe she wasn’t ready. Maybe she can’t do it all on her own.

Help comes from an unlikely source.

Nate Benedict has a way of fixing things. He is a lawyer and he makes problems go away for his clients and sometimes for his son, Billy, and Billy’s friends. He’s willing to help Kit and fix her relationship with Billy. For a price.

All he wants is a small favor in exchange for an apartment and a second chance. Nothing big.

Kit makes the easy choice. But before she knows it one small favor turns into another. And another. Until Kit is in so deep she isn’t sure if she can get out in Strings Attached (2011) by Judy Blundell.

Strings Attached is Blundell’s follow up to her National Book Award winning novel What I Saw and How I Lied. It is also just as much of a powerhouse.

This book has a complex structure interspersing Kit’s present in New York with chapters detailing key points in her past that led her to a point where accepting a favor from someone as notorious as Nate Benedict makes sense. The story, past and present, comes together seamlessly as Blundell unfolds a story filled with as much suspense and intrigue as any noir plot.

Strings Attached is an evocative look at an era and a place (both Providence and New York). Kit is a charming narrator who is both unashamed and candid. Filled with mystery and romance Strings Attached is an atmospheric novel that defies expectations and will draw readers in from the first line to the very last.*

*I don’t want to spoil anything but I have to say Strings Attached probably has my most favorite last paragraph . . . ever.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Heist Society by Ally Carter, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Paper Towns by John Green, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, New York City: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Vixen by Jillian Larkin, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Mad Apple by Christina Meldrum, The Wessex Papers by Daniel Parker, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Double Indemnity (movie)

Exclusive Bonus Content: The book design, by Elizabeth B. Parisis, is also just as beautiful as What I Saw and How I Lied and features jacket photography by Michael Frost.

What I Saw and How I Lied: A (noir) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy BlundellEvery good book should start with a good story. In the case of What I Saw and How I Lied (2008) by Judy Blundell, it actually starts with two. This is Blundell’s debut novel although, under pen names, she has written many other titles. In a School Library Journal article, Blundell said that this was the first book that felt like it was hers. How wonderful then to also have it win the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and receive accolades from all over. (Plus, the book was edited by David Levithan, himself a YA author/editor extraordinaire).

But that’s just the backstory. What I Saw and How I Lied also has an excellent actual story.

The year is 1947, the place Queens, New York. For fifteen-year-old Evie Spooner, it feels like life has gone back to normal. Her step-father Joe is back from the War, Evie’s blonde bombshell mother Barb is back to playing housewife, and Joe’s mother is annoying everyone. All everyday, mundane things.

That changes when Joe announces suddenly that the family is going to take a trip to Florida. When Peter Coleridge, a dashing ex-GI who served with Joe, finds the family, Evie knows that things will never be mundane again. The close Evie gets to Peter, the more secrets she finds–not only Peter’s but also secrets surrounding her own family.

As the events of the novel come to a head Evie has to face these secrets and the lies told to keep them. The more she learns about the truth, and the lies, the more Evie wonders if truth has anything to do with loyalty.

The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover with its heroine steeped in shadows. It is the epitome of film noir (hardboiled fiction when in written form), a fitting choice since this novel is nothing if not noir.

The writing here is taut, fraught with tension and even a bit of suspense right from the beginning. Every word here matters. If ever I met someone who suggested that writing was not an art, this book would be part of my argument to the contrary.

Sometimes novels told in retrospect, which is basically the case here, can be boring because the narrator keeps complaining about the things they didn’t know. Evie is made of stronger stuff. Instead of bemoaning the things she missed the first time around, she simply lays out the events as they happened. This makes Evie’s perspective on things look a bit naive. At the same time it also gives the book a certain honesty because, like Evie, we learn that everything is not as it seems as the story progresses.

Blundell also uses a lot of foreshadowing in her novel. In the wrong hands foreshadow is another writing technique that can go horribly wrong. In What I Saw and How I Lied it only adds to the suspense and complexity of the writing–writing that is both poignant and beautiful (while evoking the atmosphere and mood of 1947 in both New York and Florida).

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Heist Society by Ally Carter, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Paper Towns by John Green, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, New York City: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Vixen by Jillian Larkin, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Mad Apple by Christina Meldrum, The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, The Wessex Papers by Daniel Parker, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams, Double Indemnity (movie)