Review: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell

Strings Attached by award-winning author, Judy Blundell, is a definite must read for lovers of young adult fiction that packs some depth and brilliance instead of just fluffy teenage romances, vampires, or books about the cool kids at school.

The story follows the life of Kit Corrigan, a teenage dancer from Rhode Island trying to make it to Broadway in New York City in 1950. She has fled from her family home, her on-again-off-again relationship with her boyfriend Billy, and has landed smack dap in the clutches of her boyfriend’s controlling father, Nate Benedict. Nate is offering Kit a way to make it in the big city in return for the seemingly simple promise of any news Kit might receive from Billy.

I must admit when I first began the novel I felt a little like the author had just thrown me in the middle of something without giving me a sense of time or place. Every writer knows that one of your first jobs in telling a story is to tell the audience where they are, when they are, and who they are with. Judy just plunges her reader into the middle of the story on page one and you are left feeling distinctly out of the loop. I had previously read What I Saw and How I Lied, and knew the caliber of writing Judy was capable of so I kept going. And I’m so very glad I did.

I guessed right from the get-go that Judy’s dropping of her reader in the middle of the story was more than likely a device to increase suspense and interest. At first it felt cheap to me. I thought, okay just give me the background and get on with it! But then I realized that Judy was dedicated not to just telling the current story about Kit Corrigan in New York in 1950, but of where Kit came from, who her family was, and how she got to where she was.

In fact by the time I reached chapter 4 (which is page 30) I found it impossible to put the book down. Judy is a master of story and even though I knew that Kit obviously had to end up in New York in 1950 I found my heart racing to find out the details of a specific story that happened in 1935 or 1947. The chapters are linked by clever devices that makes the stories told seem real. For instance the presence of a balloon in the present will remind Kit of a story that involved balloons when she was a child, and it is precisely connectors like these that make this story feel authentic in its narrative.

Judy’s descriptions are breathtaking as well. Whether it’s the simple description of an object in a room, the palpable tension between our young heroine and a sinister older man, or the aching honesty of young love the reader is gripped and plunged right into the moment head first. Phrases like “Lust, liquor, and legs – that’s where I came from. That’s who I was.” and ” Suddenly, I realized that he wasn’t holding me in an embrace. He was holding me up, or preparing to, and the first alarm began to clang inside me.” are littered about in this novel as if these kinds of apt deductions about life and human interaction are commonplace in every piece of literature rather than something special.

The history and place of New York in 1950 is expertly researched, as well as Rhode Island in the 1930’s and 40’s. You get a definite sense of the sights, quality of air, culture, and changes that were happening during those decades. The dialogue used by the characters is also appropriate for the time period in which it is set and Judy doesn’t fall into the trap of throwing in cultural phrases just because she has to – it all feels very natural. There are a few scenes between Kit and some chorus girls that are full of the authentic kind of banter you’d find back stage at any sort of show that really highlight Judy’s knack for getting into the culture and feel of a time and place.

As a young adult novel it does navigate a lot of the same issues you would find in any old book for teens, but they are handled not with a blatant “here’s the issue”, but rather with something much better and something that gains my respect – they are handled with a story. Judy expertly navigates themes of love, betrayal, friendship, secrets, lies, and in the end beautifully brings all of these things together in a way that shows no life and no decision is completely unattached to another in a thrilling climax that also ties together the snippets life stories of all of the main characters.

A five out of five stars for sure and a must read not just for young adults, but for adult adults too!

One Response to “Review: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell”

  • Mum Says:

    Very well done, Kayleigh! A few very minor grammatical errors, but the review read like something you’d read in the New York Times. You definitely have the knack! Keep it up. :)

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