Everybody Rise, Burn Baby Burn, Rereading Roald Dahl

Sometimes as a parent you get those moments when you feel like you must be doing something right, and having my 5-year-old ask me to reread her The BFG and The Witches was definitely one of those moments. We enjoyed them just as much the 2nd time through, and now she’s eager to have me read The BFG a third time so that her big sister can get why we think snozzcumbers are so funny.

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina hooked me right away because it’s set in Queens! Not exactly my neighborhood, but close enough to be fun. The title evokes disco because the story takes place in 1977, time of the blackout and Son of Sam (same setting as one of Spike Lee’s better movies). Nora is a Cuban-American girl about to turn 18 along with her best friend, but their plans to party all night are shadowed by the menacing serial killer stalking the streets of NYC, Queens in particular. Nora is also hiding the secret that her younger brother is physically abusive to their mother, and possibly involved in drugs and crime. Her best friend Kathleen comes from a good home and wouldn’t understand, and Nora lives in fear that her brother’s issues will jeopardize everything Nora wants out of life. The story is intimate, intense, and powerful, and Nora’s struggle leaps off the page with an emotional strength that matches the richness of the period detail.

(For some reason, searching for the Spike Lee movie on Amazon led me to an amazing discovery–apparently BBC did a recent adaptation of And Then There Were None that’s edgy and dark and fabulous and went right on my wishlist.)

I grabbed Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford on impulse at the library, thinking it would be fluffy chick lit about a social climber in NYC in 2006 on the verge of the financial crisis. I was not expecting such a nail-biter. Following the perils of ethically-challenged, socially-aspiring Evelyn Beegan, the story went to some dark places as Evelyn tries to infiltrate the highest levels of the socialite world, not realizing that she’s in no financial position to play any of those reindeer games. I know a little bit about being young in NYC and having too much available credit, and while I’m older than Evelyn (my 20s spanned the go-go 90s) and not quite as foolish, her emotional journey resonated with me on a deep level. I got why she did what she did, and felt grateful that my financial stupidity never went as far as Evelyn’s. Maybe that’s because my rich friends were never quite as rich as Evelyn’s. Thank heavens for that!

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