Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review of Strings Attached by Judy Blundell

Blundell, Judy.  Strings Attached.  Scholastic Press, 2011.

Strings Attached opens with a premise that is a winner all on its own - it's 1950 and Kit Corrigan, a 17-year-old singer and dancer, is trying to make it in New York City.  She's a plucky redhead, one of a set of Irish-American triplets with a dead mother and a just-scraping-by dad - and she's going to get on Broadway someday if it kills her.

That would be enough to hook me, as I'm a sucker for books and movies about chorus girls getting a lucky break.  But wait, the plot thickens.  Kit has an ex-boyfriend named Billy in the army for whom she still holds a torch, and though he seems to be out of the picture, his mob lawyer dad Nate won't leave Kit alone.  He lets her live in an apartment he owns rent-free, gives her a bunch of clothes, and even gets her a coveted dancing job at the Lido Club - and says it's all because he wants Kit and Billy to get married and have the apartment when Billy gets out of the army. 

At this point, the reader's alarm bells will be going off big time, but though Kit is wary, she wants that apartment enough to ignore any worry pangs.  After all, it's not like Nate is making her do anything bad or weird.  Just, once in a while he asks her to talk to someone at the Lido Club, or to tell him if someone showed up or not.  Annoying, but no big deal.

Though this is all very intriguing and glamorous/seedy, the best part of the book is the backstory, which unfolds in an unpredictable set of flashbacks.  All the delicious trappings of a noir classic are here - doomed love affairs, terrible tragedies, deadly secrets, mob death contracts, and even some victims of the second Red Scare.  At the center of it all is Kit, who thinks she's street-wise but gets herself into some major hot water.

Kit's voice is tough and sassy one moment, wistful the next, as she tries to become a woman of the world while yearning for safety and friendship.  The language evokes the time period, with occasional turns of phrase so hard-boiled that they crackle like a gangster's moll snapping her gum.  Nothing overdone - just enough to allow the reader to settle into that lovely noir mood.

Is the plot realistic?  No way!  Plausible?  Nah - the whole Nate plot is pretty darn tenuous.  Entertaining as all get out?  Heck yes!  Highly recommended for ages 14 and up.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't been that impressed with the Blundell titles I've read so far, but this one sounds interesting. I might have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!