My Thoughts On: Semi-Charmed Life by Nora Zelevansky

Posted August 21, 2012 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 15 Comments

Semi-Charmed Life by Nora Zelevansky
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: July 3, 2012
336 Pages
Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

In Nora Zelevansky’s hilarious debut, Semi-Charmed Life, an Upper West Side naïf, Beatrice Bernstein, gets swept up in the seemingly magical life of socialite Veruca Pfeffernoose, while ghost writing her blog. Veruca’s glitteringly opulent world soon seduces Beatrice away from her own insular, arty family with a promise of fancy parties, travel outside Manhattan (for once) and one desperately cute guy. But when her new glitzy lifestyle starts to take on dark undertones, Beatrice has to decide who she is—once and for all. With her own magical touch, Zelevansky deftly explores the world of rarified Manhattan in this sparkling modern fairy tale of first love, finding one’s voice and growing up. –(summary from Goodreads)

Semi-Charmed Life by Nora Zelevansky

My Thoughts:  Semi-Charmed Life is a story of bigger-than-life CHARACTERS that live a bigger-than-life LIFE. What we have here is a story that is a little bit magic and a little bit reality television of the celebrity-lifestyle type. 

1. The Characters. Beatrice Bernstein is entering into her senior year of college. Feeling completely suffocated by her parents, she decides to move on-campus for the year to experience more of the college life and to be able to breathe a little bit. To her dismay, she is stuck inside a crappy, nasty efficiency-sized room in the dark basement instead of a regular apartment on a regular floor, like everyone else. Not long after arriving at the school, Bea happens upon Veruca Pfeffernoose, a celebrity it-girl, who happens to be living in the same building! Apparently V-Pfeff will be attending classes at the same school…WHO’D HAVE FIGURED?

Bea’s best friend Dolly also lives in the building. Dolly is a great best friend but can be a little bit whiny at times and I found myself a little bit annoyed with her. Veruca has several key players in her entourage, and they are colorful figures with wildly differing personalities – much like you would expect to see on real-life celebrity gossip shows or reality television. They were sometimes cranky and sometimes over-the-top, but always-always interesting to read. Fun, fun characterization in this book. 

2. The Story. Veruca knows Bea because she is one of ‘the Bernsteins’ of the art community (the Bernsteins are sort of well-known). V-Pfeff befriends her, finds out she is living in the yucky basement room, and comes up with a solution to get Bea out of that filthy, disgusting place:  Bea can move into V-Pfeff’s apartment and ghost-write her blog! Reluctant at first, Bea decides to take her up on the offer and is soon swept up in the glamorous lifestyle of manicures, paparazzi, expensive food and vacations, and entertaining V-Pfeff’s good ole’ boy Southern boyfriend, who doesn’t care for all of the money and fame. At first, Bea keeps up and remains immune to it all but soon even she begins to enjoy the lifestyle. 

Bea begins to enjoy spending time with Ben, Veruca’s boyfriend. After all, he is the most like her and throughout everything, he keeps her grounded and reminds her what is truly important. Soon Bea’s relationship with her family and friends begins to suffer, and she becomes concerned with her growing feelings for Veruca’s boyfriend. Bea worries that she is changing – the very core of who she is could be changing – and she isn’t sure she likes it. 

3. The Magic. This story is certainly and without a doubt one that I would call a YA romance. It’s contemporary, for sure. But there is a little something in there too that hints at magic. I never could exactly put my finger on what it was, but it is definitely there. For example, while Veruca’s apartment is on the third floor (if I remember correctly), looking out of the apartment windows offers an amazing view that only a high-rise apartment would be able to afford. And despite the fact that it is a small apartment – the same size as all the rest of them – Bea finds herself getting lost easily and requires assistance finding her way to and from the various rooms in the apartment. She even has to mark the path to her bedroom on the walls so she can find her way without calling out for the staff every time she comes and goes. 

4. The Romance. Veruca calls Ben her permanent boy toy, but right away Bea notices that he is cute and crush-worthy. In fact, she had already seen him a couple of times in the building and she had been thinking of him before she realizes he was taken. As Ben wasn’t really V-Pfeff’s type and didn’t really enjoy all of her social functions, part of Bea’s paid job was to keep him company. This means they spent a lot of time together…which means that they became friends…which of course means that eventually there will be THE FEELINGS. 

When Bea began to realize that she had feelings for Ben, she immediately decided that she’d change her behavior around him to prevent any type of relationship issues – she didn’t want to come between Ben and Veruca. (Honorable, Bea!) However, there was some confusion and there were some mixed signals and it is possible that Ben may have been feeling the same things that Bea was feelings. Oh boy!

OH BOTHER. Whatever will these two do about THE FEELINGS?? 


Semi-Charmed Life is a fun debut story about a girl making her own path in a big city. Where she’d been sheltered and suffocated for her entire life, Bea finally decided to spread her wings a bit and live a little. It was so nice to see her become her own person. The people that moved in and out of her life as she made her way through the city/world were colorful and charming and really just a pleasure to read. They completely reminded me of E! Entertainment Television (an American TV Channel) and their reality programming.

There are some elements of magic and romance and even a tiny hint of mystery that go along with the coming-of-age tale that make Semi-Charmed Life fun. The beginning of the book was a little slow-paced for me – most likely because I had a hard time following along with the expensive name brands and types of food and places in New York that were mentioned frequently. However, about one-quarter of the way into the book something fun is revealed that completely picked the story up and moved it at a much more manageable and quicker pace for me. From there on, it was charming as heck and I thought it was delightful and fun to read.

Semi-Charmed Life is a book that I recommend for people who love to read YA Contemporary Romances and don’t mind a hint of magical realism thrown in. I recommend this book for people who enjoy great settings – in particular, those who enjoy or are interested in New York City – and also those who enjoy glitz and glamour.

Semi-Charmed Life will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary Romance/New Adult
(with an element of magic)
Fun Characterization
(main character shows development!)
Romance: possible triangle

Semi-Charmed Life by Nora Zelevansky

is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you St. Martin’s and NetGalley! 


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


15 responses to “My Thoughts On: Semi-Charmed Life by Nora Zelevansky

  1. This book looks cute, even despite the "possible triangle." I like contemporaries with some magical realism – Jellicoe Road has some elements of that as well! It can work really well in a story.

    As this is considered YA, but is about characters at the end of college, is the material a lot more mature than a book about high schoolers? I'd imagine it would be…but maybe not? Just curious. The whole YA vs. New Adult genre thing confuses me at times. Beautiful Disaster also takes place in college, but I'd consider that an adult contemporary romance, so maybe it has just as much to do with content than the age of the characters.

    • The triangle is not an average triangle and I was thinking of you actually when I threw that word possible in there. We can discuss this further if you want!

      AAAhhh, I completely forgot to add New Adult! I'll edit that. YES, they are at the end of their college careers. But still, this is really nothing like Beautiful Disaster in terms of mature content. There is mention of a few cocktails and one girl does have to much to drink once, but it is still not done in any way like the other-mentioned book was. It was written in a very whimsical way, and I don't really feel I need to throw up a mature content warning at all. The focus in this story is more on the socialite status and how fabulous the parties are in terms of being over-the-top (think: Kardashians, for lack of a better description) rather than a party-hard lifestyle. Does that make sense?

    • I'm assuming it's a Veruca-Ben-Bea triangle. A guy stuck in the middle always makes me nervous, especially when it seems clear already that he and Veruca aren't exactly a matching pair. He sounds like a good guy so I wonder why is he with V? I hate when people stay with the wrong person – but I know nothing about this situation so I'm interested to read and find out what's going on. And I get why Bea wouldn't want to get in the middle of it. The life of a NYC socialite sounds interesting and decadent. I love when characters live lives completely different from mine.

      I didn't think this was like BD! And I figured there wasn't anything crazy in it that required a mature rating. But still I'd think that a book about college seniors would deal with some more adult concerns that a high school book would. I've just been thinking about book labels recently.

    • Yes, that's the triangle but it is different. I hesitated even calling it that, really, but in the end, I did. I never hated his relationship with V because it wasn't even like they were together. I can't predict where he would be on your scale but I can't imagine you hating on him or the relationships. But who knows?!

      I know you didn't think it was like BD, I was just using it as a means of comparison – like pretty far away from that, actually. I totally agree that when you hear college seniors certain adult concerns come to mind but I didn't ever really think of any of those issues at all in this book. 🙂

    • Ok! I figured you didn't…but it's hard to read intent over the internet, you know. I actually reserved this at the library. We can discuss! Thx for the recommend.

    • This book was SO VERY New York! I have never been there but I was totally able to get a feel for the place. Bea and her friends traveled to some other places around the world too, but the bulk of the book is in New York. Fun!

  2. You know I love YA! And I am all about some contemporary right now. Add in the fact that I adore New York, I totally want to read this now! I had not heard of Semi Charmed until this review. Thanks, Ashley!

  3. I think this sounds like a super fun book and if I'm being honest I don't think I've ever even heard of it before. Lots of great characters, *the feelings*, and a coming of age story? Um, yes please!

  4. I've seen this one around, and while I really like the watercolor cover, I was pretty ready to write it off as a contemporary romance and largely not my thing. I adore magical realism thrown into contemporary though, and this does sound like a cute New Adult book. I'm always wary of books that steer into the boyfriend stealing category (yeah, I'm the only girl in the world who thinks Etienne St. Claire was a douche), but the fact that Bea tries to work against these feelings is admirable.

    • Once the magical realism started to come into play, the story really became fun. It was like a contemporary + fun stuff, if that makes any sense. And I loved that it was set in a college setting with college-aged characters. Plus I have no experience with big cities, so that was interesting for me. About the boyfriend stealing, keep an open mind because it might surprise you. I love the way it was handled.

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