Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Where Did it All Begin?

The Carrie Diaries
Who doesn't love the "Sex and the City" ladies and all their adventures? Well, upon finding that Candace Bushnell wrote The Carrie Diaries, a young adult novel about Carrie as a senior in high school, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I have always wanted to know more about those girls and just how life was like for them in the mean halls of high school.

Carrie hasn't had things easy, but she still has dreams of becoming a writer. She applied to a summer writing program in NYC, but she was rejected. Now she must resign herself to going to Brown and studying science like her father wants. She wishes desperately her mom were still alive to give her advice about what to do. So she keeps going through the motions, hanging out with her friends, chain smoking cigarettes (it was the 1980's after all), and listening to all her friends tell her about their boyfriends, guy friends, and crushes... until Sebastian Kydd arrives.

Carrie's first run-in with Sebastian when they were young was not terribly promising, but he is still as hot as she remembers. At first she thinks he is dating the head cheerleader (and Queen Bee) Donna LaDonna (feel free to gag a little at that name... I did). But soon it becomes clear Sebastian Kydd wants her more. Carrie is thrilled, until Donna LaDonna wages war on her. Carrie keeps trying ot get to the bottom of the LaDonna/Kydd thing, but Sebastian keeps dodging her questions.

Carrie's dad introduces her to a Brown student he knows and encourages her to spend time with him (in a not-so-subtle way of getting her to go to Brown). She likes George, but he just isn't boyfriend material. Still she continues hanging out with him until George finds out about Sebastian. Then she is left with Sebastian and a group of friends that has slowly fallen apart while Carrie was wrapped up in her own world.

When Carrie's sister gets put in jail for shoplifting and her father makes all three daughters go on lock down, she doesn't get to see anyone (including Sebastian) for 2 weeks. Upon her first jailbreak, there is clearly something up with Sebastian and Carrie's friend Lali. When Carrie runs back into the bar, she gets an eyeful of the two of them making out. Now, boyfriend-less, friendless, motherless, and without the summer writing class, Carrie has no idea what to do. Luckily, George forgives her and along with a few other good friends, and they help Carrie realize she has to go with what she believes in. She starts writing articles for the school newspaper under a pseudonym and exposes high school life for what it really is. When she submits those articles to the NY writer's program, she is accepted and her father agrees to let her go. Thus begins the story of Carrie Bradshaw, columnist...

If this story sounds a little thin, its because it kind of is. If it weren't for the ties I already had to the main character, Carrie, I may not have really gotten in to this story. The beginning was kind of slow and it took some real willpower to spend some time getting into it. When I finally did, though, it picked up a bit. The story was interesting, but I think there were a number of flaws. First, the marketing of this book as YA shoots past the mark. In order to really like the story, you should know of the TV show or original novels by Candace Bushnell, but those are certainly not child-friendly. Otherwise, this is only a mediocre story at best.

The other serious flaw was the time period it is set in- she is a senior in high school in the early 80's when kids and teachers alike openly smoked in and around school, the drinking age was 18, so they could easily sneak into bars and get alcohol. This might not seem too much of a stretch for teenagers, but it really seemed like a different world. In fact, I think younger readers would have a hard time relating to the time period- it is that weird limbo where it is close enough to seem familiar but long enough ago to be so wildly different. If it was earlier or later, it might have been easier to relate to.

The writing is fairly simplistic, but some of the circumstances might be better for an older crowd. There is a fair amount of talk about sex, alcohol, and cigarettes, but I wouldn't say it is in excess. I just think this might be a better book for older young adults or adults who are more familiar with the television show. I know they would certainly appreciate the last paragraph where a certain someone comes to Carrie's rescue!

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