Monday, March 4, 2013

book review: Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

The backstory: When Girls in White Dresses started showing up on several Best of 2012 lists, I was surprised. I had dismissed it as chick lit based on the cover. As Rachel Fershleiser (are you following her tumblr? You should) said best, Girls in White Dresses is a great women-processing-their-shit book.

The basics: Girls in White Dresses is the story of three young women and close friends: Isabella, Mary and Lauren. Together and separately, they navigate the years following college, while some friends are getting married and having babies, while others are losing jobs or single or lacking direction.

My thoughts: From the moment I started reading this novel, I was in love with both Close's writing and these beautifully developed characters:
"New York in September was busy, like everyone was in a hurry to get back to real life after the lazy summer. Isabella liked the feeling of it, the rushing around, and she let herself get swept along the sidewalks. She walked quickly, trotting beside the crowds of people, like she had somewhere important to be, too, like she was part of the productivity of the city, when really she was just going to Bed Bath & Beyond to get a shower curtain." (page 6)
Close immediately took me back to my early twenties. She captures the joys, fears and hope of those years perfectly. There are quiet moments and loud moments. The duality of being happy for your friends and yet scared or sad for yourself is beautifully rendered here:
"Kristi’s third shower was thrown by her fiance’s groomsmen. It was a couples’ shower to stock the bar, and everyone was supposed to bring a bottle of liquor and glasses. “What kind of groomsmen throw a shower?” Lauren asked. “Are they gay? I’ve never heard of such a thing. And you know what? I’m not going. I’m not in a couple, and I need the liquor more than she does.” Lauren ended up going to the party and drinking almost the whole bottle of liquor she’d brought. “I need it more,” she kept saying."
Ultimately, what makes this book amazing are the flaws of the characters. In this way, Girls in White Dresses reminded me of These Days Are Ours (my favorite read of 2012.) Both feature young women fresh from college navigating the world of adulthood, but more importantly, both feature flawed young women I can relate to. They have problems and insecurities, yet Haimoff and Close write them with a rawness and honesty that is brave and refreshing.

Favorite passage:  "She could feel herself getting sentimental, which she always was. Sometimes she missed people before they even left her, got depressed about a vacation being over before it started."

The verdict: Girls in White Dresses was one of my favorite reads of 2012 and one of the most surprising, largely because the cover, while charming, misrepresents the novel. This novel is a moving tale of young adulthood, the beautiful complexities of friendships, and the uncertainties of forging your own path in life, love, work and time. Thinking Girls in White Dresses is about weddings was as foolish as thinking Sex and the City is a show only about sex. Both find their groove by combining realistic and easy-to-relate-to tales of friendship with humor and without shying away from the parts of ourselves we'd rather hide or forget. Jennifer Close made a fan out of me, and I'm now eagerly awaiting the release of her second novel, The Smart One, in April.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 304
Publication date: August 9, 2011 
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Girls in White Dresses from the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

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1 comment:

  1. I also wrote this book off for several of the same reasons, and felt that I couldn't relate to it. It sounds as if there is something about this book that elevates it beyond the cover, or the thoughts we have about the cover. I am interested in this one now, and that's due to your really expressive and wonderful review. Thanks!


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