Ask Me Anything

Ask Me Anything

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by Francesca Delbanco

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"An engaging, screwball first novel....A genuine pleasure."—The New Yorker
Twenty-six-year-old Rosalie Preston works by day as an advice columnist for the romantically perplexed readership of Girl Talk magazine. But her true passion is for the stage and for her fledgling theater troupe, the First Borns, a tight pack of friends and lovers who live (mostly)

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"An engaging, screwball first novel....A genuine pleasure."—The New Yorker
Twenty-six-year-old Rosalie Preston works by day as an advice columnist for the romantically perplexed readership of Girl Talk magazine. But her true passion is for the stage and for her fledgling theater troupe, the First Borns, a tight pack of friends and lovers who live (mostly) in the East Village. When Rosalie comes to the notice of suave Berglan Starker, a theater underwriter—and also the father of her best friend—she finds herself caught up in a very different affair from those she so jauntily untangles in her column for teens. Struggling to be savvy but sage, she is swept along by curiosity, a taste for adventure, and a penchant for those alluring complimentary toiletries in New York's ritziest hotels. Fame versus art, sex versus love, ambition versus friendship, room service versus restaurants: these are the choppy waters the First Borners must navigate—together and, perhaps ultimately, apart—in this delicious novel.
"The best of what the chick-lit genre has to offer: it's wry, compelling, and keenly observed."—Library Journal "What a delightful surprise....[Delbanco's] voice is fresh and wise....The angst here is warm and funny and has the true tone of excited urgency and humility that fuels youth."—Mary Ambrose, Boston Globe "Absurdly entertaining....The wistful and wise-cracking Rosalie is a winning screwball heroine."—Mark Rozzo, Los Angeles Times Book Review

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
… there's something fresh and optimistic about Ask Me Anything, mostly because there's something optimistic about Delbanco (yes, she's the daughter of writer Nicholas Delbanco). While she doesn't have anything shockingly new to say about the state of the twentysomething, she takes her writing, which is careful and lovely, seriously. — Suzy Hansen
The New Yorker
At the start of this engaging, screwball first novel, Rosalie Preston, a fledgling Manhattanite a few years out of Harvard, works as the advice columnist for GirlTalk, a teen magazine (her signoff is “Trust me. I’ve lived through it”). But in her off hours she’s a member of the First Born Company, an earnest acting troupe that comprises all of her arty college friends. Delbanco catches perfectly that murky moment when perpetual adolescents, bound to each other at the hip, turn into grownups with more complicated loyalties—a process that is hastened somewhat when the heroine is bedded by a pal’s urbane father—but she is sensible enough to wear her insights lightly. Rosalie’s romantic misadventures form an ironic counterpoint to the advice chirpily imparted by her columns. Such sureness of touch turns a story that might have seemed hackneyed into a genuine pleasure.
Publishers Weekly
Ambition and romance collide in Delbanco's uneven debut about an aspiring actress who comes to New York to discover what and whom she really, really wants and how to live with the choices she makes. Rosalie Preston works by day as a GirlTalk columnist doling out sensible advice to lovelorn teens, signing her replies with the arch, "Trust me. I've lived through it." She's still on the learning curve, though, as she struggles to know her own heart. Is it in the acting she does with the First Borns, a small, tight-knit troupe formed while the members were still in college? Or will she find it in romance? The troupe begins to fragment as member Evan is promoted by his boss, one of Broadway's top directors, to help launch a play written by Declan Pearse, a gifted Irish playwright, that will showcase Cam, one of First Born's most talented actors. Soon two other members announce their engagement, leaving Rosalie feeling further out of the loop and ripe for a secret affair with the famous financier Berglan Starker, who's not only the primary bankroller of the troupe but another member's father. Delbanco, a former Seventeen advice columnist, cleverly frames the chapters of her late bloomer's coming-of-age with samples of Rosalie's light "Ask Annie" columns. Unfortunately, these breezy clips are sometimes more entertaining than the heavier narration of Delbanco's self-absorbed protagonist, whose observations alternate between witty "Edginess is a pheromone; it has physical manifestations" to the less assured and gooey "His kiss was so silvery that every inch of my body melted and my shoes slipped right off me onto the floor" as Rosalie finds the balance between career and love that Delbanco, who shows potential as a prose stylist, hopefully will find in her next novel. Agent, Timothy Seldes. Author tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Delbanco's debut novel centers on precocious 26-year-old actress wannabe Rosalie Preston and her circle of aspiring thespian friends, good mates since their idyllic days at Harvard. The trouble is that Rose is unable to accept time's inevitable march forward: the engagement, success, and impending parenthood of different members of her group send her into a tailspin-and into the arms of her friend's married father. As Rose struggles with her quarter-life crisis, she learns that change, while often painful, is both inevitable and necessary if one is to grow. Rose's character is fully drawn, if not always fully sympathetic; she can be snobbish and selfish, but she is also introspective, wise, and even humble, torn by conflicting impulses: the desire to belong and to set herself apart. Rose is a multitude, and it is this that makes her so compelling and so human and ultimately makes the novel so readable. Never mind that halfway through you know where the plot is headed; you're still happy to go along for the ride. Like Sharon Olson's Welcome to My Planet, this is the best of what the chick-lit genre has to offer: it's wry, compelling, and keenly observed. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/03.]-Tania Barnes, "Library Journal" Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Good advice, bad advice. Columnist Rosalie Preston tries to say the right things to the confused teenagers who write her at Girl Talk, though she's not sure she's qualified to give anyone advice: she just sort of stumbled into the job after temping for the magazine and her own life isn't exactly stable. Which is to say that, at 26, she actually doesn't have a real boyfriend or, um, particular goals or anything. But what's real and what's fake, anyway? Who knows? Rosalie does feel kind of real on stage sometimes, though-and when she's not pretending to work, she does acting with the First Born theater company, along with rich girls, gay guys, and the merely eccentric who are all pretty different from the solid, middle-class types she grew up among. There's Bella Starker, daughter of the billionaire who underwrites most of First Born's expenses (Bella takes cabs and stuff). And Cam and Evan-they're, like, interesting. And there's Grace and, um, some others. Wow. . . is Berglan Starker, Bella's much-married, excessively well-groomed father, coming on to her? Well, chalk it up to experience-albeit not one she can share with her dopey readers or concerned parents-but Rosalie is happy enough to bend over and give all for Berglan. He makes strange old-person pronouncements in an attempt to be polite, which is pretty much lost on Rosalie. Plus, ee-yeww-he has gray hair on his chest. How weird is that? But whatever, she gets to look at a really fabulous view of New York from his fabulous apartment while he's banging away. Then a new love interest arrives on the scene: Declan Pearse, rugged Irish playwright. Should she bag Berglan and decide on Declan? What will her friends think (or do theythink?)? Hey, doesn't everything kind of turn out the same no matter what you do? Trite, plotless, self-absorbed debut from a former writer of Seventeen's advice column. Agent: Timothy Seldes

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Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Francesca Delbanco received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she later taught. She now lives in Los Angeles. This is her first novel.

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Ask Me Anything 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love women's lit and chick lit and even dramatic fiction as well as non-fiction. I have literally read hundreds of books. I have attempted to read this one on 4 seperate ocassions and I cannot get into it. The characters are boring and I have read several chapters and the story just seems to be going nowhere. I will try to read it one more time and if I still cannot get through it, I will donate it to the women's shelter.