Vidalia in Paris [NOOK Book]


When Vidalia wins a scholarship to study art abroad for the summer, she can’t believe her good fortune. Paris is filled with surprises, including Julien, the nice bookstore clerk Vidalia should like as more than a friend, and Marco, the mysterious art dealer she can’t stay away from. By the time she finds out the truth about the paintings Marco sells, she’s fallen for him too hard to really care. But when his crimes threaten to involve her ...
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Vidalia in Paris

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When Vidalia wins a scholarship to study art abroad for the summer, she can’t believe her good fortune. Paris is filled with surprises, including Julien, the nice bookstore clerk Vidalia should like as more than a friend, and Marco, the mysterious art dealer she can’t stay away from. By the time she finds out the truth about the paintings Marco sells, she’s fallen for him too hard to really care. But when his crimes threaten to involve her directly, Vidalia has to separate reason from passion.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

When a summer scholarship frees her from her Grey Gardens- like house and the burden of tending to her severely anxious, agoraphobic mother, high school student Vidalia is thrilled to be studying painting in Paris. First-novelist Watson throws Vidalia some easy pitches: the cute young (and good-hearted) Frenchman at Shakespeare & Co. immediately makes an overture, and when the art teacher trains his Gallic scorn on her, another student helps her shrug it off. But instead of embarking on a flowers-and-baguette romance, Vidalia chooses darker territory: a seductive bad boy pushes her limits, beginning with ditching a restaurant bill on their first date and escalating to art heists. The story lines support each other gracefully. For example, Vidalia repeatedly sketches a single painting all summer, unable to get the girl's face right, which mirrors her own search for self. And even though the crime element never entirely convinces, it energetically drives the plot and forces readers to understand Vidalia's need for escape. Plus, the ripe scenes of dinner on a Paris rooftop, beaches in Cannes and quiet interiors of out-of-the-way museums provide readers with an escape of their own. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

It's the summer before her senior year, and Vidalia Sloane has the opportunity of her young lifetime. She has won a scholarship to study art in Paris. Immediately upon her arrival she immerses herself in the experience, visiting museums and meeting new friends and potential lovers, including the mysterious and charming Marco, a 19-year-old aspiring art dealer. With him she forgets that she has no money for weekend trips with the other American students. He eases her panic when her agoraphobic mother calls. He fills the time so that Vidalia is away from her inattentive host family. He is also a genius when it comes to bending the rules, believing that it is acceptable to take from those who have more than enough. Swept up in the excitement of the relationship, Vidalia goes along with him, but just how far can she bend the rules before they break? Watson does a wonderful job of describing Vidalia's emotions throughout the book. However, it is hard to figure out how she goes from typical high school student to art thief. There are also some other oddities to the plot, such as the on-again-off-again relationship between Vidalia and Heather, another program participant from her hometown. Despite these foibles, readers will enjoy this story, getting caught up in the romance and Parisian ambiance.-Melyssa Malinowski, Kenwood High School, Baltimore, MD

Kirkus Reviews

Watson's supple, low-key first novel distills beautifully the feelings of excitement that a young art student experiences when in Paris for the first time. On an art scholarship in Paris with her East Hampton, N.Y., high school for the summer, Vidalia Sloane is delighted to meet two potential boyfriends almost instantly. Julien is a clerk at the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookstore, truly kind and a good listener; Marco is the charismatic friend of her chilly host family, whose involvement in the art world is on the shady side. Uneducated but daring, Marco thinks of himself as a kind of Robin Hood and persuades the smitten young woman to steal art with him. However, as a developing artist herself, Vidalia begins to suffer pangs of guilt. She works to sort out her conflicting feelings for Marco even as she struggles to prove her independence from her rather neurotic, agoraphobic mother and to navigate art classes and messy friendships back home. Watson portrays Paris with a doting accuracy and delineates all the torments of first love. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440642159
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 10/2/2008
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,167,462
  • Age range: 12 years
  • File size: 278 KB

Meet the Author

Sasha Watson lives in Los Angeles, California. This is her debut novel.

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Interviews & Essays

Where did you get your idea for VIDALIA IN PARIS?
I got it where I get most of my ideas, by looking at things that really happen and then asking, "what if?" When I was starting to write Vidalia, I read a story about an art thief who had spent years stealing small works of art from museums and churches in Europe, only to keep them in his small apartment in Switzerland. What interested me was that he was stealing these things, not to make money, but because he loved them. So I thought, what if a young girl who loved art, somehow ended up stealing it? And a part of Vidalia was born. Of course, there were many more "what ifs" that went into the story.

Have you ever lived in Paris?
Yes, I've lived in Paris on and off throughout my life. I first went there with my mother, who was studying French, when I was four years old. I was lucky to learn to speak French at that age, and that's something I've used ever since. I also studied in Paris in both college and graduate school, and I've spent a lot of time there outside of school as well. That was another big inspiration for the book. I wanted to write about what it felt like to be an American in France, learning about the people and culture by being thrown right into the middle of it. A lot of times, it can be a bumpy ride, as it is for Vidalia in her art class. Other times, you can dive into the pleasures of the country, as Vidalia does when she goes to the countryside with Julien and his family.

Did you think about having Vidalia choose Julien instead of Marco, or having her end up with Julien at the end of the book?
It was very clear to me from the beginning that Vidalia would end up, not with either of theguys she meets, but with herself and her own art. For me, the true story here is about an artist finding out that she is an artist. At the end of her adventures, it's Vidalia's art that sustains and nourishes her, not romance and not the excitement of a glamorous life. Vidalia's story ends with a scene of her drawing, because that's really where her heart is.

What advice do you have for aspiring young writers?
The only way to be a writer is to keep on writing, no matter what. One key to that is to stop judging yourself. Remember that every writer has to do a lot of bad writing before writing anything good. It's a necessary part of the process, so don't stop until you get to the good stuff. And then keep going!

What was the hardest part about writing this book?
I think the hardest part with this book, which was my first, was writing it with no idea how the process was going to end. I would find myself in the middle of a draft, just plugging along with very little encouragement from the outside world and certainly no guarantee that anyone other than myself and the people who love me would read it. I would think, will I ever get to the end? A lot of the time, it didn't seem like I would but then, of course, I did.

I was also told over and over that no one would ever read a young adult novel about a character who steals. Workshop teachers, editors, agents, other writers, all said that Vidalia just wasn't likable enough if she stole. So I had to really grit my teeth and believe that I saw something there that nobody else saw, and just keep on writing in spite of what I was hearing. The first time I ever saw my editor at Viking, Joy Peskin, she was giving a talk and she made reference to a book she was editing at the time. That book is called Klepto, by Jenny Pollock, and, guess what? It's about a girl who steals. Klepto, which is great, is a very different book from Vidalia in Paris, but when I heard Joy talk about it, I said to myself, that's the editor who will get it! When I finally made contact with her, and showed her the book, she did, indeed, get it, and I've had a wonderful time working with her ever since.

Would you consider writing a sequel?
Absolutely. I've always seen Vidalia as a trilogy and I would love to write two more books about her adventures in art, love, and travel.

Why did you send Vidalia to Paris, as opposed to another foreign city, or keeping her in the United States?
Well, it was Paris as opposed to Berlin or Florence or anywhere else because I've lived there, and I had a strong desire to write about this city that I love. And, as for sending her on a trip instead of keeping her at home, I just think you learn so much about yourself when you travel. Being thrown into new and strange circumstances forces you to question everything you take for granted about what's normal. It makes you realize that there are more ways of thinking about what's normal than just what you grew up with, and it can make you realize that it's up to you to define the terms of your own life. That provides a lot of opportunity for change in a character, and change is what stories are all about.

Did you like to write when you were a teenager?
Yes, I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. A few years ago, I saw a home movie taken when I was eleven or twelve in which somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Without a pause, I said, "a writer." So that's always been a big part of who I am.

Vidalia's former best friend, Heather, ditched her a few years before the story begins, and eventually, the two of them reconnect. Did you have a friendship like that when you were younger?
I had a best friend who turned her back on me when she became popular, just like Heather did to Vidalia, and, at a different point, I also turned my back on a friend. So I understood the situation from both sides: how painful it is to be ditched by a friend, and then how someone can rationalize doing a thing like that and how badly they might feel about it later. Though Heather is a fictional character, I thought a lot about those real-life situations and I asked myself, "What if you had the opportunity to help the friend who had ditched you? What would happen to your relationship then?"

Where did you get the ideas for the artwork in the book (Vidalia's rabbit houses, the painting she copies at the museum, etc.)?
Creating Vidalia's artwork was some of the most fun I had writing this book. I think it's because I'm not a visual artist-I can't draw and I take terrible photographs-but I love the visual arts so much. I also wanted to show how fun art is, that it isn't just something you see in a museum, but can be playful and funny and strange, like Vidalia's rabbit houses or the art made out of garbage that she sees in the countryside. I got ideas from real art that I'd seen (all of those artists are thanked in the acknowledgments) and I mixed those ideas with what I thought would have meaning for Vidalia. The rabbit houses are fun but they're also really meaningful because Vidalia lives in this big old house with her mother, who never goes outside. So houses contain a lot of emotion and anxiety for her, and all of that goes into the rabbit houses.

Do you think art theft rings like the one Marco is involved with in VIDALIA IN PARIS really exist?
I can't say that something just like it exists, but one of the things I learned in researching art theft for the book, and which inspired me to create that little art ring, is that art gets stolen all the time. An artist I know (whose paintings are the inspiration for Ruby's) had a painting stolen from a gallery in Paris. I met someone else in Paris who had worked at the Louvre and she told me that art objects are stolen from that museum every week. I mean, you'd think they'd have the highest security in the world but things still get stolen! The other thing about art theft is that museums and old churches that can't really afford to install top-of-the-line security systems, often don't publicize it when thefts occur. They don't want the public to know how easy it can be to steal the works.

Do you think Marco was just using Vidalia, or do you think he really loved her?
I'm sure that he really loved her. Marco seems very worldly-wise to Vidalia at first, but he's really just as confused as she is about his life and where he's going. He's manipulated by the Dubois just like Vidalia is manipulated by both him and the Dubois. Marco doesn't always do the right thing by Vidalia and he has a very flawed moral character, but he does love her and he tries to protect her in his own way, too.

Will Vidalia see Marco again? What about Julien?
I'm not sure about Marco. I think he might reappear in his mysterious way at various moments but probably not for any length of time. Julien, on the other hand, will definitely be back in Vidalia's life. They still have a lot to say to each other.

In VIDALIA IN PARIS, Vidalia cuts her hair very short and gives herself (with Marco's help) a more sophisticated look. What do you think this makeover symbolizes?
Vidalia spends a lot of time trying to become a new person in Paris. She wants to be as glamorous and sophisticated as she thinks Marco is, and she also wants to escape the crushing responsibility she feels for her mother at home. The haircut and new clothes are an attempt to make that transformation. Of course, her real transformation will be deeper than just a haircut.

Marco believes that it's okay to take from rich people because they have so much. For a while, Vidalia believes him. What do you think changes her mind?
At a certain point, Vidalia stops thinking about rich people in the abstract and realizes that there is a human being behind every work of art. She isn't stealing from a nameless artist at the gallery, she's stealing from Ruby. At the Cartier's party, Vidalia overhears Marie Cartier talking about herself in a very personal way, and that makes her unable to steal from her. Ultimately, Vidalia realizes that it isn't up to her to decide who deserves to have what, and that there's no way of knowing who will be hurt when you behave unethically.

At one point, Vidalia (influenced by Marco) tells Julien she may not go to college after all. Do you think she will ultimately go to college, or not?
Yes, I think Vidalia will apply to art school in her senior year, and that she'll eventually go. She might decide to take a year off to go back to Paris first, though . . .

Marco tells Vidalia that art has no real value-it's just canvas and some paint. What do you personally think about the monetary value of art? Is it largely subjective?
That's a really hard question and there can be many answers to it. I think in some ways it's subjective. The price of art can go up and up and up for no reason other than the hype that surrounds an artist and a work of art. I certainly don't agree entirely with Marco, either, though. A work of art isn't just canvas and paint, it's also someone's vision of the world and of human experience. That can have a lot of value but how to assign a dollar amount to that? I guess I'm glad it's not up to me to say how much a work of art should be worth!

Are you working on a new book? What's it about (if you can say)?
Yes, I'm working on a book about a boy from Jersey City who runs away from home and finds himself in a real-life Western in Far West Texas.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jennifer Rummel for

    Vidalia finds herself traveling to Paris on an art scholarship for six weeks during the summer. She's happy to be away from the struggles of her home life. <BR/><BR/>She loves art, but her first art class is a disaster. Her specialty art, rabbit houses, is completely different than the art produced by the other artists in her class. <BR/><BR/>Her host family seems too busy to hang out with her. She's on her own for most of her vacation - which is fine with her; she's there to focus on her art. <BR/><BR/>Then she meets Marcus. At first, she doesn't like him, but then he seeks her out and she can't help feeling flattered. He has different ideas about the rich, ideas that get her in over her head. <BR/><BR/>Can she put aside her concerns and love with wild abandon? <BR/><BR/>The descriptive quality of this book was sensational; when Vidalia walked down the streets of Paris, it felt like you were walking right beside her. <BR/><BR/>This breezy romantic tale forces Vidalia to make tough decisions based on her struggling conscience.

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    Posted May 3, 2009

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