Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

This novel is a prequel to the highly successful show, Sex and the City. I've seen a few episodes of the show and both of the movies, so I have somewhat of a feel for what the show is like and the main character, Carrie Bradshaw. However, I have never read the novel by the same author which started the show. Is it right, then, to compare this novel to the show and not the original book because while I don't feel like it succeeded in connecting with the show, what's to say it doesn't connect with the book?

Carrie Bradshaw is a senior in high school trying to navigate her way through boys, friends, bullies, and her desire to be a writer. When she lands Sebastain Kydd as a boyfriend, she figures things are looking up, until she has to deal with Donna LaDonna who doesn't exactly like the fact that Carrie "stole" her boyfriend. Donna's now out to make Carrie's life miserable. Things, though, aren't perfect with her relationship and soon she begins to question her best friend's constant involvement with her boyfriend, which ultimately leads to betrayal and the sad end of a relationship and friendship. In light of the betrayal, Carrie finally starts to find the voice she needs to be a successful writer and is on her way to becoming the Carrie Bradshaw we all know. In the meantime she has to deal with a rebellious sister, another friend's romance troubles, the fact that all of friends seem to be having sex except her, and other woes that affect seniors in high school trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives.

I don't know what to say about this book because I feel like I'm judging it based on the TV show and not as a book. However, the book promotes itself as "Carrie before Sex and the City" so how can you avoid the comparison? You don't see TV Carrie until the final few chapters. I understand how the first 3/4ths of the book are shaping her into this character, but it took sooo long for her to emerge that it was hard to maintain my interest. Also, one of the great things about the TV show are the supporting characters. While Carrie might be the main star, her friends are so distinct and special that the show is equally about them. The supporting characters in this novel fell flat. You could never mistake Charlotte for Samantha on the show but in this book, nobody had a distinct voice or personality although they all had the potential. Her friend Mouse could have been taken out completely and Walt faded in and out of the novel while his story was interesting. Only Maggie and Lali had any substance but they still could have been anybody for most of the book. While the novel isn't about them, that doesn't mean they need to be cardboard cutouts for Carrie to interact with. At the same time, the setting of this novel could have been anywhere, anytime. This novel took place in 1980 but nothing in the novel, aside from the casual manner every treated drinking and smoking, told me it wasn't a different time from today. I'm not expecting news reports and the time period shoved down my throat, but if it's going to be in a different decade, make it a little more obvious. In the show Carrie was all about fashion and sometimes wacky fashion. Where are the leggings, jumpsuits, shoulder pads, teased hair, anything to tell me this novel isn't taking place yesterday? Sure she had a thing with a purse, a mink shawl and a hat, but three fashion things the whole book aren't enough to develop Carrie's obsession with fashion or set the time period.

The novel in and of itself wasn't horrible. It is a good story that clearly shows the path Carrie took to become editorial writer and everything that affected her. That all works for the novel. However, I don't think that readers are going to be able to separate it from the show they all know and so I don't think the novel lives up to it's potential.

No comments: