Scheming socialites in NYC? Yes, please. Thank you to St. Martin's Press for an advanced copy of Stephanie Clifford's Everybody Rise, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - Twenty-six year old, Evelyn Beegan is under a great deal of pressure. The daughter of a very successful lawyer and socialite mother, Evelyn grew up in privilege. Unfortunately, she is the product of new money and although it afforded her luxuries like prep school and a mansion, it didn't guarantee her acceptance in the old money social circles. When Evelyn's father becomes the subject of a grand jury investigation, their family could lose it all. Evelyn's mother pressures her to solidify her place in society before their dirty laundry is aired or worse, before their money runs out. Evelyn uses her prep school connections to wedge herself into NYC Society circa 2006, a world of immense wealth and free spending. A world careening towards the financial collapse of 2008.
LIKE - Everybody Rise is a beautiful train wreck. Evelyn's behavior reads like a horror novel. Her social climbing actions include racking up massive credit card debit, cheating on her boyfriend, and eventually, theft. Evelyn's actions and attitude are so cringe-worthy, that I felt my stomach sour and I wish that I could have reached through the book and screamed "Don't do it!". My visceral reaction is proof that Clifford has crafted a story and characters that left me affected.
On a basic level, it was entertaining to glimpse into the lives of the mega wealthy. The characters are like something out of Gossip Girl. However, the story goes deeper to poke at what our society values. This isn't a slight against the wealthy, it jabs at all economic classes, as so many people struggle with the idea of nothing ever being enough. We are a consumer culture, just some people have more to throw towards consumption. Evelyn's values are deeply misguided and she must realize that money and status do not necessarily mean happiness. Will Evelyn be able to dig herself out of her very deep hole?
DISLIKE- Evelyn was extremely rounded with crystal clear motives. However, I found her family dynamic to be missing information. At the beginning of the story, her father is an arrogant jerk. He's unkind to both his wife and daughter. At the end of the story, he is facing jail time and seems to shift to be more sensitive and in-tune with his family. There was a missing element for me. I wanted to know why they put up with him being a jerk? I imagined that it was his job that changed his attitude, but for clarity, it would have been nice to have a scene showing the family as a happy unit, before wealth and status impacted their lives.
I thought that maybe Evelyn's mother, created a shift in her father. Her mother is a shameless social climber, thinking nothing at lying and creating a false background to get ahead. Her mother's behavior was certainly a big motivation behind Evelyn's actions, but it also probably created a change in her father, who had a modest upbringing. The dynamic with Evelyn's parents was extremely interesting and I wish that it had been given greater weight and exploration.
RECOMMEND - Yes. I thoroughly enjoyed Everybody Rise, even if it was a stressful read. My stomach still hurts thinking about it! My issues with Evelyn's family did not make a huge impact on my recommending this book. Clifford is a very engaging writer and this story is timely with our societies focus on self. Everybody Rise will make you rethink your priorities.