Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Publication date: July 3rd 2012
Beatrice Bernstein, of the art world Bernsteins, is faced with a difficult decision: spend her senior year living in a roach and mold infested basement apartment or ghost-write a blog for the chic and mysterious socialite, Veruca Pfeffernoose. Balancing her ethics against sleepless nights fully clothed to avoid any contact with anything in her closet-apartment and Beatrice’s ethics beat a hasty retreat. She cheerfully embraces Veruca’s world where whatever is desired will appear and at a moment’s notice. Reality is no longer college classes and writing papers but a new designer wardrobe, A-list parties, limos, 24 hour spa services, and a paycheck for writing about the world of art. All of this beneficence is distributed by Veruca who shimmers with the same gentle, shining presence as Glinda the Good Witch. She flits and flirts and asks very little in return.
The same cannot be said of her entourage and as time gallops and Beatrice is pulled more firmly out of her world and into theirs, she begins to question her choice. Veruca may be the personification of generosity but who is she- really? And is there something else going on behind the uber-fabulous art show openings, the globe-trotting and the glitterati sightings?
Author Nora Zelevansky has perfectly written Semi-Charmed Life for its twenty-something demographic. The pace is fast and relentless, the culture NYC trendy. Reading it, one is reminded of pulling an all-nighter. And yet, like that break-neck existence it is skittery and sometimes disjointed. Point of view changes in mid-paragraph, breaking into another character’s thoughts in a way that is jarring. The book starts with a coming-of-age feel and maintains that even when the fantastical elements of Veruca’s life are introduced. There are the odd mystical elements like an unusually plumed pigeon and the aphorisms that appear and disappear in Beatrice’s notebook but they are so negligible the reader is likely to scan them and forget. That is, until ¾ of the way through the book when suddenly the mystery of why Veruca wants Beatrice to write her blog takes center stage and things take a Nancy Drew turn. A mojito-drinking-Prada-wearing Nancy Drew. And there my interest began to wane. By the time all was said and done, what could have been a light, charming, Sex and The City: The College Years episode was muddied and confusing. Semi-Charmed Life may have deeper meaning for some but, for me, it did not come together.