This farcical dramedy takes you from appetizers to dessert—but may not leave you feeling sated.
It's senior year for brother and sister Sam and Ilsa and time for one final dinner party at their grandmother Czarina's rent-controlled apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. (Czarina’s forebears fled Eastern Europe during the pogroms.) The rules are simple: The twins may each invite three people and see how the guests interact. On Sam's side are Ilsa's ex, the suave, ballroom-dancing, Dominican and African-American Parker; Sam's own ex, Jason Goldstein-Chung; and Johan, an Afrikaner whom Sam fell in lust with on the subway. Ilsa's list consists of her school friend Li Zhang; the rude socialite KK Kingsley (presumed white); and Frederyk Podhalanski, a blond Polish exchange student who communicates mostly through his sock puppet, Caspian. Over the course of the evening (narrated in alternating chapters from Ilsa’s and Sam's points of view), this mix of former, current, and future lovers fight, drink, scream at one another, drink, philosophize, drink, and (you guessed it) drink some more. The tone of the book is humorous, although it often toes the farcical line from well on the other side. That rare breed of teen reader who quotes Auntie Mame, Absolutely Fabulous, and Neil Simon will devour this, but others may find the characters and scenario excessively mannered.
This sweet treat of a story is akin to a croquembouche—light, rich, and delicious but nutritionally lacking. (Fiction. 14-18)