Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
3.75 stars

Reasons for reading:
sounded good when I read reviews for purchasing it for the library, Young Adult Challenge

First lines:
"The Sullivan family's Christmas began in the traditional way that year. All six children gathered at the top of the stairs in order, from youngest to oldest, and waited for the signal from Daddy-o that it was safe to come downstairs and inspect the work of Santa."

Description (from Booklist): "On Christmas Day, the scion of the Sullivan family, Almighty, announces one of her grandchildren has offended her. Unless she receives a proper confession by New Year’s Day, Norrie, Jane, Sassy, their brothers, and their parents will be ripped from Almighty’s will and left destitute. Oh dear. So begins a cleverly plotted romp divided into three parts—the confession letters of each sister. Bunched together in age—18, 16, and 15—the girls have much in common, including a cheerful disdain for their parents, a healthy fear of Almighty, and the uneasy knowledge that their life of privilege isn’t how the rest of the world lives. The letters themselves are both thoughtful and funny, and if the voices of the three sisters sometimes sound alike, their confessions amply show the reasons Almighty might be angry, as one sister skips out on her cotillion to follow her heart, another blogs about her family’s evil road to power, and the third regrets killing Almighty’s fifth husband."

My thoughts: These interconnected stories kept me wondering which "crime" Almighty was angry about and wanting to get to know each Sullivan sister. As several reviews point out, it's nice to see a novel about wealthy girls who aren't bitchy, mean, label-whores. These girls are pretty normal (as normal as you can be in a rich family of 6 kids where the parents only vaguely seem to be aware that they're parents). My favourite sister was Norrie, who falls in love with an older man at her speed reading class and just can't make herself fit with the society boy her grandmother has picked out. Jane and her rather bratty blog about her "evil family" probably had the strongest voice and her bit of rebellion fit with her age and privileged upbringing. Sassy was sweet and a bit dumb, but I found her story, revolving around thinking she's immortal because she keeps getting hit by cars and not getting hurt, didn't really fit the tone of the other two mainstream stories, although it's basically the one that ties everything together. While I wasn't 100% on board with the ending, it did have a bit of a twist, which I appreciated.

The adults in the story are fairly well-drawn and pretty unusual. Daddy-o and Ginger (they can't stand the thought of actually just being called mom and dad) seem largely unaware of their children's behaviour, although Daddy-o is probably more with-it than he appears. Dramatic, fragile Ginger has furnished the house with fainting couches because she often finds it hard to remain upright. Almighty is a force to be reckoned with, a matriarch to the nth degree. She seems very cold and doesn't thaw much, although she does come to see the girls as more than just either irritants or extensions of her family name. The settings, both the family's enormous old house with its Tower Room and the location of Baltimore rather than NYC or LA add some interesting elements.

The Christmassy setting was a nice bonus for this time of year and while I didn't think the story was perfect, I enjoyed that it was actually an interesting story rather than the usual chick lit drivel. Definitely one to recommend to teen girls looking for a good read this holiday season!

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