Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Ember (August 9, 2011)
"Jazz... Booze... Boys... It's a dangerous combination. Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?
Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden.
Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry."
After a somewhat unsympathetic opening (two of the society girls' goals extend no further than wanting to become flappers and the third wants to hide from the painful repercussions of her past as an uber-flapper), this book was hard to put down as the three point of view characters' lives became more entangled in a world of intrigue, parties, Mafia-run bars and the streets of 1920's Chicago. I started reading at midnight and found myself staying up until 3.30 am to finish the book.
It hasn't got anything very deep to say, despite one girl's taboo relationship with a black jazz pianist. The girls' goals are only wrapped up in their men - the good, the bad, but none of them ugly. Even Gloria only discovers she wants to be a jazz singer because she falls for a handsome pianist in a bar. Yet the characters became more interesting, the motives and mystery more intriguing, and the pace more urgent as the book progresses.
Considering it's set in a time when many women were fighting for equality, a voice in government, and many other worthy causes it's a shame that the mean girl cat fights entirely rule the action as the girls go after the men of their dreams, but it's a fast, fun read nevertheless.
Clara was perhaps the most appealing of the three, as waiting for the truth to be revealed about her past gave the book much of its suspense and tension. But Raine's self-destructive desire to be noticed made her misguided actions almost sympathetic and deepened my interest in her POV. Perhaps the least well-developed was Gloria, but as this is only the first book in the series, I suspect subsequent books will delve more deeply into the problems of mixed-race romances and the shifting social identity of women of the 1920's as these naive young girls begin to deal with the repercussions of their choices.
Despite some anachronistic elements (did girls really learn their lessons using flashcards in the 1920's?) this series is sure to be a hit with older YA girls, even those who don't normally read historical fiction. Be prepared for some sexual elements, drinking and violence. But that's not a surprise, is it? Mobsters, Chicago, and prohibition? It's a given.