A pair of college best friends—one born with everything; the other starting from nothing—become post-college rivals, intent on success no matter the cost.
Stella Bradley is rich and blonde and beautiful, a monied Manhattanite, irresponsible and razor-sharp. Violet Trapp is a hardworking kid from Florida with no money and no family support. Their connection is instant. “It wasn’t that my personality changed when I met Stella,” Violet reflects. “It was that it became….I didn’t just want the friendship of this dazzling girl. I wanted the world that had made her so dazzling in the first place.” Violet is determined to overcome her own roots; by studying the Bradleys, she imagines, she might become one of them. After college, Stella flits across the globe, and Violet, the “responsible one,” stays in New York—living in the Bradleys' apartment, intended for Stella—gets an internship in cable news, falls in love with the job, is promoted, and then is promoted again. She excels in production, behind the scenes, cultivating sources, engrossed in the work. When Stella returns, though, the relationship can’t quite pick up as before: Violet has an identity now, separate from Stella; the power between them has shifted. And then Stella pulls a few strings—family connections, natural charm—and begins encroaching on Violet’s new turf. She, too, gets a job at the network and begins climbing the ranks. And her newfound ambitions are not behind the scenes but in front of the camera, once again eclipsing Violet, restoring the balance between them: invisible, hardworking, talented Violet and Stella, the star. But this time, Violet is fighting back—by any means necessary. If the pivotal event of the book—and its sinister aftermath—seems slightly far-fetched given the relative grounding of the first two-thirds of the novel, who cares? It’s a trivial quibble given the sheer pleasure of reading this book. Pitoniak (The Futures, 2017) is an astute social observer, and the novel—a literary thriller about class aspiration and young female ambition—is a twisting delight with a haunting punch.
Deceptively nuanced, and impossible to put down, this is escapism with substance.