Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review: Beautiful Americans Trilogy by Lucy Silag

Beautiful Americans Trilogy
by Lucy Silag
January 8, 2009
Borrowed from Library (1st and 2nd)
Bought on Kindle (3rd)
Amazon Page
Goodreads Page
Grade: B

Pretty Little Liars meets My So-Called Life in this story of four American teens in Paris and the scandals that haunt each of them.

There's rich New York girl Alex; Cali-born dancer Olivia; closeted Memphis boy Zack; and finally PJ, an elusive beauty from Vermont who's hiding a dark past.

Studying abroad for their junior year of high school, they run wild in the Tuileries, hold clandestine parties in their host families' luxe apartments, take over tiny crowded cafes and generally live the glamorous life.

But in the end they all must face the lies they've told and secrets they've kept when the unthinkable happens.

I wasn’t expecting much at all from these books.  I requested them from my library because I wanted a book-set-in-Paris fix, but the Pretty Little Liars reference in the synopsis made me wary.  So I was pleasantly surprised by this trilogy - and even purchased the third book on my Kindle because I didn’t want to wait for the interlibrary loan to come in.

The books focus on the junior (of high school) year abroad of four Americans in an exclusive Lycee in Paris.  They play, flirt with other American students - and sometimes even the French ones!, work, and experience Paris as they all grow up over the course of the year.

My major issue with the books was that none of the students seemed like 16 year olds.  I hate when people make that comment about YA books so let me explain.  All the students live with French host families, but apparently none of the families have any compunction about letting their wards run around Paris at all hours of the night, none of them worry when the students come home drunk, and none of them even question the constant coming and going of new friends and acquaintances. A few times, the characters refer to their host parents, and two even mention that they share rooms with younger French ‘siblings,’ but still there’s no worry about going home drunk.  It bothered me.  I think the author could have made the students college age without much difference in the stories and avoided a lot of my qualms.

I haven’t been shy about the fact that I often dislike multiple narrators in books, but that was my absolute favourite part of Beautiful Americans.  The points of view spiral between our four main characters in almost a cinematic fashion.  This allows the reader to both see what the characters are thinking and feeling but also how that character comes across to others, and, as often with people though maybe teenagers especially, contradictions abound.  It was seriously well done.   Each of the characters' voices was easily distinguishable, and each was very flawed but still immensely likable.  I enjoyed each of them which makes the 'picking my favourite' game hard.  Alex, Zack, Olivia, and PJ all had their moments of brilliance.

Paris, as it often is, was basically a fifth main character, and as the students roamed through arrondissements, the reader gets to see Paris in all its glory, beauty, and filth.  Each of the scenes are framed by a vibrant Parisian setting whether it’s Alex and Zack shopping at Galeries Lafeyette, Olivia dancing with an underground ballet company, or PJ finding herself in a seedy club in Pigalle.  The reader can definitely tell that the author is very familiar with - and in love with - that city.  The second book is noticeably the weakest of the trilogy, and I believe that’s partially to due with the fact that Paris is left for other parts of France including Rouen and the Riviera plus a sequence set in Amsterdam.  The life of Paris pulses through the story, making outrageous adventures more believable and providing more than a backdrop for the four narrators’ coming of age story.

This isn’t a great trilogy, but it’s a fun and light read with four engaging and interesting main characters.  If you’re looking for some good brain candy with a glorious setting, it's definitely here.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I read and adore each one.