Clifford’s debut tries to be a Bonfire of the Vanities for our time but doesn’t make it.

EVERYBODY RISE

A young woman who works at a tech startup tries to shoehorn her way into New York’s high society.

The most notable thing about Evelyn Beegan’s life so far is that she went to Sheffield Academy, a New England boarding school where the vibe is so preppy that her social-climbing mother, Barbara, bought a used 1985 Mercedes once she realized “none of the old-money mothers would deign to drive a fresh-off-the-lot BMW like the Beegans had shown up in.” (Clifford, a New York Times reporter, has a good eye for class markers.) Now Evelyn works at People Like Us, a social networking site trying to recruit “the elite’s elite,” and she’s busy using Sheffield friends such as Preston Hacking, “a Winthrop on his mother’s side,” to insinuate herself into the exclusive swirl of charity balls and weekends in the Adirondacks where she can engage new members. But it’s more than business to Evelyn: she genuinely admires luminaries like Camilla Rutherford, “the clear center of young New York,” and concocts ever more elaborate lies about her own background in an attempt to befriend them. Hasn’t Evelyn ever heard of Google? It shouldn’t be hard for people to find out she was never a debutante in Baltimore, among other things. Having her father, a lawyer who specializes in suing pharmaceutical companies, indicted for bribery isn’t a secret she’ll be able to keep forever, either. There’s been a big debate in the past few years about whether literary characters need to be likable, and of course many great books feature protagonists you wouldn’t want to befriend. But Evelyn spends so much time doing such bone-headed things, and for a goal that seems so dated, that’s it’s hard to work up any interest in what happens to her.

Clifford’s debut tries to be a Bonfire of the Vanities for our time but doesn’t make it.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-07717-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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