Debut novel about drug-addicted young socialites living in London and New York City.
The story centers on beautiful, wealthy, pill-popping, vodka-drinking, coke-snorting Alice, whose gap year has turned into multiple years of nonstop partying. Intertwined are the emotional struggles of fellow substance abusers: Alice’s unavailable boyfriend, Harry, her vivacious childhood friend, Rose, and her older, in-and-out-of-rehab ex-boyfriend, Hugo. Spens’s narration can be lyrical. At certain times, though, descriptions degenerate into amateur poetry, and obvious efforts at stylization diminish the story’s substance. Over one tumultuous summer, the four protagonists search for answers at the bottom of a bottle or in a bag of powder, falling into self-destruction and despair, ruining their relationships with each other as they go. Joining rebellious Alice as she tears through glitzy social scenes in London and New York provides an initial thrill, but it wears thin as each chapter brings more of the same parties, high fashion and expensive cocktails. Spens never conveys Alice’s underlying personality, focusing instead on her selfish, poisonous shell. That makes it difficult to sympathize with her, or with her equally self-involved friends. The endless sequence of the characters’ highs and lows becomes tiresome, and the book increasingly reads like an exercise in melic description. Some of the strongest, most impressive scenes showcase the protagonists’ dysfunctional relationships with their parents. But Alice, Harry, Rose and Hugo become interchangeable as their anger, depression and repetitive self-questioning drags on.
Trying to go deep, the novel is distracted by its own mannerisms and fails to grab readers with defined characters and a strong, forward-moving plot.