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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Strings Attached, written by Judy Blundell. Scholastic, 2011. $20.99 ages 12 and up

"There was even a pair of
fawn-colored slacks and a
matching cardigan. New York
style, all spread out on my couch.
As I stared at the white tailored
blouse I realized I didn't just want
these clothes, I hungered for them.
It was like eating honey from a spoon."

I read What I Saw and How I Lied  with a strong dose of admiration for Judy Blundell and her writing...and a healthy interest in the mystery that surrounded that story. So, I was eager in my anticipation for her newest book. It is an equally compelling read.

In this tale of love and danger, the setting is New York during the Korean War.  Kit is 17 when the book opens, and has just completed her first role in a Broadway play. The pay is not good, her future is uncertain and she is desperate to stay and find fame in any new job in the theater. She is there on her own, having fled her hometown after a fight with her father and a nasty break-up with her boyfriend. She wants to make it on her own.

Imagine her surprise when her ex-boyfriend's father makes contact with her, and offers an audition and rent on a new apartment. It's a generous offer, and somewhat disconcerting. Kit is not sure what strings will be attached to her acceptance. Had she only known, she might have thought twice about it. He is a powerful man who makes Kit an instrument in his relationship with his estranged son.

The story builds slowly, with the author adding layers of information to help the reader with the many mysterious events. We learn about Kit's past; her relationship with her family and her uneasy relationship with Billy. Nate Benedict, Billy's father is a powerful lawyer with ties to the mob and he wants to be fed information about his son who has enlisted in the army, and perhaps enlist a few favors. 
It is a tale of two generations; with secrets, lies and family connections. In telling it Judy Blundell takes us to an earlier time and provides a clear taste of what it was like to try and make it in show business in the 1950s, how war affected families and the country, and even of blacklisting. In those terms, it is a very informative read about a particular period of history.
Once you begin reading you will find it hard to stop! As Judy Blundell peels away the layers and offers up a clear look at the two families and their history, I became caught up in the mystery of it all and kept 'reading just one more chapter'. She is a great writer and I have a high regard for her ability to tell a strong story and make me feel that I am in one of those nightclubs, on one of those New York streets and risking the same dangers that face Kit. As she moves back and forth from past to present, secrets are revealed and some kept. There are many strong characters, twists and turns that surprise, and a tragic end. Is that enticing enough for you?

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