As a longtime fan of the HBO series Sex and The City, I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I selected The Carrie Dairies by Candace Bushnell from my local library. Granted, the hit show was based on her book of the same name, but I had never read it, so I didn't know the similarities/differences vs. the TV-ed version. This particular novel, a 2010 release by the author, was presented as a ‘Young Adult Fiction' novel telling the story of Carrie Bradshaw pre-SATC, as a high school senior in a small Connecticut town.
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Carrie and her friends want boyfriends their senior year; that's what we first learn. They are not in the coolest clique, although don't seem to be complete outcasts either, but present themselves quite quickly as typical 17 year olds. Boys, college, each other-that's their steam of thought. Much of the story does focus on relationship issues, oftentimes between the main characters and their significant others, but also within the group of girls themselves. It made me at first wistful for my teen years, then so glad that they are over with. Their group seems to be a stereotypical crew celebrating the near adulthood of their impending high school graduation with parties, drinking, a bit of drug experimentation, and of course the opposite sex...and sex itself (surprised?). Most of this takes a back seat over the main story though-I was actually disappointed at the amount of drinking that was so casually done, like I am supposed to believe that 17 year olds regularly went out and only drank the responsible amount that got them home safely each night, with maybe one or two incidents where someone had too much but was carefully cared for. I would like to say that sort of irresponsible, illegal behavior isn't typical for teens, even in a time when the drinking age was 18, but sadly believe that it's prissy-ed up to seem less of a concern than the central storyline of the book-Carrie and her two loves.
Her first of course being a boy, but her second is her writing. She loves it dearly, but is constantly met with discouragement from critics and even casual conversation. As we follow her throughout the nine months that encompass the end of her high school time, there are some flashbacks to memories and instances that do help shape the character I am familiar with on the TV. Fashion is definitely brought up a few times, as Carrie dares to be a bit different, and her deeper thoughts, the non-verbal text of the novel as well as her conversation, presents her as intuitive and wise beyond her years. Relationships shift in every direction, including the ones with her family, as Carrie struggles to maintain her own identity without being sucked into the mainstream, or left alone on the sidelines.
I must say, this was an easy read. I finished it cover to cover in about 4 hours during one of my random nights of insomnia. Part of me enjoyed what could have been a glimpse of the girl that became the woman I enjoy watching on TV, but I also found detachment from her as well. I had difficulty believing some of the situations, relationships and even incidents Carrie got herself involved it-I had to keep reminding myself that she was 17, and didn't know everything she does by her 30's. Still those inner thoughts, those questions about love and life and relationships-that tied in the ‘two' Carries quite well. The novel essentially follows her until her first moments in New York City.
I didn't think that this is an appropriate book for teens-too many references to sex, drinking and smoking with no one seeing a bit of consequence would make me uneasy handing this over to an adolescent. It didn't ready at all as diary form, which frankly I am grateful for because I hate reading that style, but also was a bit misleading from the title-I felt as though I was reading any other novel, following a character's story. It didn't seem as though deep dark thoughts and secrets were being revealed throughout the text.
In all, The Carrie Diaries was an amusing read; you don't have to be a fan of the series to understand it, although the last line did give me a bit of a smile. I wouldn't run out to add this to my bookshelf but I don't consider my evening to have been complete a waste.
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