Laura Finnegan is a scholarship student at Tate Academy, the top private all-girls' school in New York. Laura is not wealthy and is glad that she is not able to compete for the best Sweet 16 extravaganza like her super-rich friends. Drama ensues when Laura's best-friend-forever Whitney's "Queen Bee" status is challenged by Sophie, the new girl from Los Angeles. Whit and Sophie discover that they have the same birthday and fight over the dates for their parties until Laura talks them into having a joint party. At first Whit and Sophie are skeptical, but soon plans of Tiffany jewelry party favors and flatware are the only conversation topics, causing Laura to feel like a third wheel. When Sophie hits on Jake, the hottie Whit is after, the joint party is called off and Laura is caught in the middle, torn between her two friends and gorgeous Jake, on whom she secretly has a crush. This novel is another addition to the abundance of chick lit for teens. The writing can be a bit over the top with the made-up lingo like "heinosity", "lame-issimo", and "Ringwaldian." The major flaw-if a flaw at all-is that Laura's character is too perfect. She is smart, unbelievably level-headed, makes her own clothes because she cannot afford designer, and gushes about how much she loves her parents (who are too good to be true.) From the Prada bookbags to the major catfights, this fast read is full of pop cultural references and enough fashion, drama, and romance to hold readers' attention.
Bittersweet Sixteen is a fast-paced, entertaining read. The main character, Laura, is engaging and offers clever comments, but most other characters, including Laura's two best friends, seem like stereotypical rich girls. The phonetic language that replaces inappropriate words makes the dialogue more realistic, although occasionally ineffective. The book's themes of being true to oneself and coming of age will appeal to girls twelve to fifteen who enjoy reading about older girls and their high school problems.
It is easy to get sidelined by the superficial characters and dialogue in this YA chic-lit story about suber-rich and snobby girls in an exclusive New York City prep school. Once readers get past the name-droppingly hip dialogue"Her face is chipped Bryan Adams style from all the zits she picked. It gives me the cringe tingles" and the characters start to develop, the novel gains some merit. At the heart of the story is sensible, scholarship student Laura, who sews her own clothes and is a budding designer. She has been a friend since kindergarten with blue-blood Whitney, but their friendship is challenged once Sophie, the daughter of a west coast movie director, moves to New York. Sophie and Whitney become obsessed with planning their lavish sweet-sixteen parties, and Laura, who cannot afford one, tries to be friends with both of them. Her plan backfires, and soon none of the threesome will speak to each other. Thrown into the mix is perfect man Jake, whom Whitney and Sophie compete over, and Laura loves from afar. Although the ending is a little too neatly tied up and Hollywood-happily-ever-after, the three main characters are well developed and the story moves along briskly. Laura survives throughout all the hissy fits and catfights, and emerges with her values intact. 2006, HarperCollins Children's Books, Ages 12 up.
Real-life friends Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman have teamed up to write about the private school experience of the rich, the famous and the scholarship girls of New York City. The events center around a new girl from California, Sophie Mitchum, and a socialite from New York, Whitney Blake, in a fairly predictable turf war over Jake Watkins. The battle is detailed amidst New York scenery, shopping sprees and weekend trips to Europe. What keeps it from being too typical is the voice of Laura Finnegan, the scholarship student. Laura is well grounded, with solid parental support and a talent in fashion design. She is in between the two queen bees as they face off over the requisite Sweet Sixteen society bash. First she is in the loop, then she is out of the loop, and then the girls, egged on by mothers, each demand her loyalty as they square off against each other. Through it all Laura is trying to keep old friendships and open the group up to new friends and new ideas. She comes to terms with her own lack of fame and fortune and sees her own family as a treasure. Teen readers will love the details and vicariously whirl their way through social contexts they only read about in magazines, but they will also see what it means to be true to oneself. Laura's voice mediates between her friends and grounds the story in solid social values. KLIATT Codes: JSRecommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, HarperCollins, 208p., Ages 12 to 18.
Bittersweet Sixteen is a look into the lives of a group of teenage girls living in New York City and attending an out-of-your-reach expensive all-girls school. The story is told from the perspective of Laura, who is attending the school only because of scholarships. While her friends are wearing designer clothes and renting private jets to fly to Europe, Laura gets caught up in the whirlwind of being a teenage girl trying to "keep up with the Joneses." The language and descriptions used in this book remind me of a mix of Fox's "The O.C." and MTV's "My Super Sweet 16." Bittersweet Sixteen would be enjoyed by any teenage girl who wonders what it would be like to have a glamorous life in New York City, but who knows that the reality of life is having great friends and family who allow you to be yourself.
Gr 7-10-Laura, a scholarship student at an elite high school in New York City, is surrounded by superficial, backstabbing rich girls, all obsessed with having the best Sweet Sixteen party. Despite the differences in lifestyles, she has a solid group of friends, as well as a best friend, Whitney. Everything is running smoothly until the new girl, Sophie, arrives. She is extremely rich, pretty, and fashionable, and wiggles her way right into Laura's group of friends and disrupts the equilibrium of the clique. Before long, everyone is fighting. Laura is the only one who remains true to herself and, with the help of a certain boy, learns about the importance of friendship. Designer names are dropped throughout and the girls are fixated on their weight, capturing some of the issues that teenage girls obsess over in America. But underneath all the fluff and superficiality are lessons on friendship and love.-Kristen M. Todd, Middle Country Public Library, Centereach, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
“Disappointed that the multi–million copy selling Gossip Girl series by Cecily Von Ziegesar has closed the final chapter on the young socialites’ high school years? If you are, well then here’s the book for you.”