Hernández portrays the scope of dreams, love, and the fashion industry in this literary debut.
Even before he spies escape in the pages of top fashion magazine Régine, Elián San Jamar knows, intrinsically and at a young age, that he does not belong with his working-class parents in ugly Corpus Christi, Texas. Against familial and geographical odds, he adamantly forges his own path through childhood, ascending to new heights when he earns a full scholarship to Yale, changes his name to Ethan St. James, and bonds with Madeline Dupre, a blue-blooded doll with privilege to share. The pair are soon befriended by Dorian Belgraves, the son of a famous model, forming a complex trio. His friends' enthusiasm encourages Ethan to follow his calling, seeking out and cultivating beauty—and when he earns an internship at Régine after graduation, it seems that all his dreams are coming true. But of course anyone who's read a fashion-industry roman à clef knows how twisted this road will inevitably become. Work at Régine is grueling and soulless, not remotely what Ethan expected when he styled himself in its image as a young adult. As an industry, fashion turns out to be quite fascist (hysterically so, at times), and it feeds ravenously on Ethan's innocence. Madeline and Dorian are hardly helpful in this regard. Exiting the enchanted, equalizing field of Yale, they can continue to romp where their hearts desire while Ethan has to pay rent. And how to make a living in a disconnected, capitalist world is something for which neither his passion nor his Ivy League education has prepared him. Writing in a fervently literary style that flirts openly with the traditions of Salinger, Plath, and Fitzgerald, Hernández is a diamond-sharp satirist and a bracingly fresh chronicler of the heartbreak of trying to grow up.
Honest and absurd, funny and tragic, wild and lovely, this novel describes modern coming-of-age with poetic precision.