Clementine Liu is back: This time she’s finishing her second year at the Parsons School of Design and heading to Shanghai for a summer term at the Condé Nast Center of Fashion & Design.
Clementine, who is biracial (French/Chinese), aspires to be a fashion journalist and takes her blog, Bonjour Girl, very seriously. As her departure date approaches, both her best friend, Jake, and her boyfriend, Jonathan, are behaving erratically, and once again Clementine overthinks every transactional detail and monitors everyone’s “vibes.” Meanwhile, Henry Lee, an attractive young Chinese student at Condé Nast in Shanghai, has been messaging her, and with Jonathan emotionally and physically distant, she is drawn to his flattering attention—with predictable consequences. There’s also an older woman on her flight who instantly becomes a mother figure to Clementine and who figures into a dramatic fourth storyline. Despite the year since the last book left off, Clementine seems not to have matured at all, carrying the same load of insecurities, overreactions, and gullibility as before. Nor has Laflèche’s (Bonjour Girl, 2018, etc.) prose developed; it continues to be charmless and wooden, a blunt instrument describing outfits and telling the reader what characters think. Characters and dialogue alike are composed of tired clichés, and not a single relationship feels authentic or believable.
A trip into Shanghai’s fashion world sounds magical, but sadly, this novel is not. (Fiction. 13-18)