The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Work In Progress (Review: The Carrie Diaries; Candace Bushnell)

The Carrie Diaries
Candace Bushnell
Harper Collins 2010

Before Carrie Bradshaw hit the big time in the City, she was a regular girl growing up in the suburbs of Connecticut. How did she turn into one of the most-read social observers of our generation? The Carrie Diaries opens up in Carrie's senior year of high school. She and her best friends -- Walt, Lali, Maggie, and the Mouse -- are inseparable, amid the sea of Jens, Jocks and Jets. And then Sebastian Kydd comes into the picture. Sebastian is a bad boy-older, intriguing, and unpredictable. Carrie falls into the relationship that she was always supposed to have in high school-until a friend's betrayal makes her question everything. With her high school days coming to a close, Carrie will realize it's finally time to go after everything she ever wanted. (blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

I really hate Sex and The City. The TV show – I've never read the book. But that show – I hate it. A lot. I couldn't really tell you why. Well, I could, but it would take up the entire post. Mainly I hate it's inherent smugness, it's self reverential humour and above all, it's characters. Rant over. Please don't hit me with your girly sticks all at once...I can't help it, it just never appealed. Therefore, when asked if I would like to review The Carrie Diaries I was hesitant – I didn't much like Carrie as an adult (although she is the best of the insufferable lot) so why on earth would I want to read about her as a teen? Still, I believe in reading out with my comfort zone on occasion, reasoning that everyone else seemed to like the whole silly lot of them so I might as well try again with just the one. I am really quite glad that I did. While it pains me to admit it, I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

As far as the story goes, we find Carrie starting her last year of high school with a group of loyal friends. While focused on her future, she is quickly distracted by the arrival of handsome Sebastian. A boy who has “bad idea” just written all over him. Sadly, Carrie is a little to young to see that yet and her and her friends embark on getting to know him. The high school that Carrie inhabits is easily recognisable with the usual clique of beautiful people (hilariously referred to as the Pod People) ruling the roost. Carrie and her friends seem to fall mid-range in the popularity ratings and spend their time drinking, smoking pot and eating hamburgers, although none of these to particular excess. They are a great group to read about. From infuriatingly melodramatic Maggie and gentle Walt, to determined Peter, smart Mighty Mouse and tough Lali they all rang true as real characters. As the story progresses, the group meanders through the perils of high school and particularly that final stage before adulthood and freedom. All of them are acutely aware that their futures are about to start and part of what makes this such an interesting book (despite not much really happening) is their differing reactions to leaving school and embarking on their adult lives.

For me, however, the revelation in this book (quite rightly) was Carrie. I found that I really quite liked her. In fact, I am going to stick my neck out and say that I haven't enjoyed reading a contemporary, female protagonist as much as Carrie in quite some time. I know. I surprise myself. Carrie has such an authentic voice that it is difficult not to get swept up in her life. At 17 she is remarkably focused on her future as a writer, yet still charmingly naive as to the ways of the world in general. Her relationship with Sebastian holds no surprises, but her reactions to it do. This is a girl who has, for want of a better word, balls. She makes mistakes and misjudges people in exactly the way that you would expect her to. While talented (not to mention ambitious) she is still trying to find her voice and while smart she is still learning about, well, pretty much everything. She is absolutely a work in progress and a gem of a character to read.

There is nothing nicer, I think, than having a book prove you wrong. I had low expectations of this title but it has quickly become a book that I would happily recommend to anyone who enjoys contemporary YA. It's not a literary heavyweight, there are no great messages within its pages but it is an entirely charming and worthwhile read with characters who are exceptionally easy to befriend. In fact, I found myself wondering what might happen to Carrie next. I'd quite like to read about her college years, I thought, or perhaps about what happens to her later in life. And lo and behold I found myself ordering Sex and The City... the book of course. Although, you never know, if that goes well perhaps I'll just take a quick peek at the DVD....

Thanks to Harper Collins for sending me this title to review and confounding my expectations.


Oh heck...I hate the show and the movies. Absolutely loathe them, to be honest. I am glad, however, to hear that this book exceeded your expectations! Perhaps I'll give it a go now :) Great review!
Confession: I also never really got the appeal of Sex and City and unfortunately am surrounded by an excessive number of people that just can't stop singing the show, movie and the book's praises. And the moment people can't stop talking about something, is the moment I lost interest in it. So, understandably it would take a lot to make me want to read this. You just changed that.
Splendibird said…
Trust me when I say that no-one can dislike the show or movies more than me. Can't stand them. This book, however, stands completely alone - it helps that it is only about Carrie, I think, as she is the best of a bad lot.
Oh how great that the book surprised you in a good way. I never really watched the show. I find some of the characters to be particularly odious and I would have never considered reading this book. I probably still won't, but it was interesting to read about your experience with it :)
Lauren said…
I liked this too! Although I did enjoy the series (after initially disliking it) eventually, I wasn't sure how I'd take to a novel with Carrie Bradshaw as the mc. But it's really different, isn't it? Like watching a pretty good eighties teen movie. Glad it talked you round. :D
Unknown said…
I am with you on the hating the show and movies. Although I like the clothes and shoes *showing my girlie side*.
This is one book I would not have given a second glance at - you have changed my mind. Well done for such a persuasive review. Will try to get it inot the library :D
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