Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review: Breakfast at Bloomingdale's

Breakfast at Bloomingdale's by Kristen Kemp
3 stars

Reasons for reading: has been on the TBR list for a while; New York book for Triple 8 Challenge

Description (from Children's Literature): "A teenage girl's grandmother passes away before she is able to help her transition to life in New York City as a budding fashion designer, and so the protagonist, whose own mother has no sense of how to parent, must go to the city alone and make her way without a high school diploma, without a guardian, and without her sewing machine."

First line: "As most of you know, my grandmother and I were like conjoined twins - so what if we were fifty-eight years apart."

My thoughts:
The premise is a good and trendy one in this post-Project Runway world - Cat (not her real name) runs away from upstate New York to the Big Apple to enter a design-for-Bloomingdale's contest after her beloved grandmother Nina dies. Her mother is a seriously dysfunctional psychologist and Cat's boyfriend decides at the last minute not to go with her. She has to make her way in the scary city, which she does by somehow charming people despite being incredibly angry and rude and often lying and stealing (it's probably the Audrey Hepburn vibe she has going on, which is what inspires her designs).

But something about the book just doesn't quite work. A big part of it was the fact that Cat really isn't likable and there's something a bit off about her narration - it's almost stream-of-consciousness. I enjoyed hearing about her designs and liked that she had talent. I have a soft spot for New York, so I liked reading about Cat's pilgrimages to Bloomingdale's and Tiffany's, things that I did when I visited years ago. I also thought her life with Nina (a gifted steamstress, heiress, and hard partier who had made out with Frank Sinatra, Tommy Hilfiger, Steven Tyler) was interesting. But a lot of the story felt just odd. It's no wonder that Cat is so hard to like, her mother is horrifying (leaving her at a psychiatric centre when she can't find anyone to look after her) and even Nina turns out to be pretty messed up (though that revelation does lead to a good line from Cat "She was far from perfect but I still love her perfectly.").

Basically, I was expecting fun and frothy, but got a lot of angry and bitter. I think it would still be a hit with young fashionistas, but I found it a bit disappointing.

No comments: