Semi-Charmed Life by Nora Zelevansky
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: July 3, 2012
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)
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!
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.
YA Contemporary Romance/New Adult
(with an element of magic)
(main character shows development!)
Romance: possible triangle
Semi-Charmed Lifeby Nora Zelevansky