I was really excited when I won a copy of Bright Young Things in a competition at Chicklish. I love reading about the 1920s, so I was delighted by the prospect of a new YA series set during that time (I’m also really excited about Libba Bray’s The Diviners and Jillian Larkin’s The Flappers series, of course). I knew that the same author wrote the ‘The Luxe’ series, which I’d been meaning to try. ‘The Luxe’ was described as ‘Gossip Girl set in the 19th Century’ by a Grazia reviewer so I wasn’t expecting anything world changing from Bright Young Things. I was expecting it to be a fun read, but one that wouldn’t wow me, and that’s exactly what I got.
I adored the atmosphere and all the period details. I thought the author captured the spirit of the age and how excited the girls would be to live through it. There were plenty of descriptions of parties and speakeasies and fashions, and I did love the characters’ names and the descriptions of clothes but all the repetitive descriptions of hair and eyes started to really annoy me after a while. The prose gets quite purple in places when the author is needlessly reminding us how beautiful her protagonists are – hair halos heads and skin is glowing and eyes are sparkling far too frequently. By the end it seems like the contrast between Letty’s big blue eyes and dark hair is mentioned everytime she enters a scene or the narration starts to follow her again, and to use an appropriate idiom, it’s a bore.
In terms of the plot and characterisation – I could predict what was going to happen easily and I didn’t really love any of the characters, though Astrid and her mother Virginia did make me laugh with their cynical frivolity and love of drama, especially in later chapters. Although I was hoping for good things for Letty, she was lazy, naïve, and a little thoughtless. Everything happens a bit too easily for Cordelia and I could see so many places where the author could have made things a bit trickier for her and introduced complications. If her father was so pleased to see her, why didn’t he come for her years ago?
Yet despite all these flaws, as I said above I did enjoy the book, and I will read the second in the series, Beautiful Days – actually, I’ve already read the preview pages!
If you can’t stand purple prose or require great depth from all your reading material, I would skip Bright Young Things. But if you want an enjoyable bit of escapism, give it a try, especially if you like all things 1920s.