Release Date: October 9, 2012
Isabelle Scott and Mirabelle Monroe are still reeling from the revelation that they share more than just the roof over their heads. The media has pounced on their story, and while Izzie and Mira have each put on a happy public face, someone is leaking their true feelings to the press. It seems as if the world is watching their every move, but at least the girls have each other.
With cotillion season right around the corner, however, Izzie and Mira have barely had time to process their newfound sisterhood. Mira has dreamed of making her debut in a gorgeous white gown forever--now if only she had an escort... Izzie, meanwhile, is still struggling to find her place in Emerald Cove, which seems ever more impossible with EC mean girls, young and old, trying to keep her down. As cotillion preparations heat up, there are dance steps to learn, manners to perfect... and secret initiations to complete?
It's time for the gowns to go on and the gloves to come off. (courtesy of Goodreads.)
Jen Calonita continues to be one of my auto-reads. She's perfected the combination of mixing coming of age themes with family drama with the trappings of wealth with romance with gorgeous, designer clothes and more. Winter White is the second book in Jen's Belles series and continues the strong path set by the first book.
Unlike most YA chick-lit novels featuring wealthy characters, the Belles series is not set in L.A. or New York. Rather it's set in North Carolina. The well-to-do of the South have developed a culture distinct from their counterparts in the rest of the U.S. so it's great fun to see a different kind of rich person's world. The society of the Emerald Cove belles is very formal, in manners, clothes, and attitudes. Cotillion - a take-off of the debutante process or even the old English tradition of presenting at Court - is the main focus of Winter White.
What fun it is. Not only do we get to see the Mira, Izzie, and their classmates learning ballroom dance, attending tea parties with ancient cotillion alumna, and picking out elaborate, overpriced wedding dresses, but we also get to experience the Emerald Cove Cotillion hazing process. It's hilarious seeing the girls publicly humiliate themselves and occasionally cringe-worthy when the hazing takes on a nasty tone as opposed to good humor.
All this is the framework for the character story. Mira and Izzie are still adjusting to the shock of learning that they're half-sisters and that their father hid Izzie's identity from them for all this time, even while Izzie was living with them. They are, understandably, livid. But amazingly not with each other. The animosity that existed between Izzie and Mira has mostly gone away as they've become, if not best friends, at least compatriots. Which is nice, because their anger at their dad goes on and on and on. In some senses, I understood their perspective and their reluctance to forgive. But it was also clear to the reader that their father is a good guy who merely screwed up royally and I was eager for the girls to get over it.
I also liked seeing Mira and Izzie continue to develop as people. Izzie is slowly (sometimes very slowly) getting beyond her preconceived notion that rich people are snobby and shallow - which is somewhat difficult because a lot of characters in the book are snobby and shallow. I loved seeing Izzie unintentionally take on leadership roles in everything she does. Meanwhile, Mira is trying to stop being so shallow and to stop being a follower. She's learning to be proud of her art even if it's not the uber cool thing to do. She's also learning to stand up for what she believes in, for what is fundamentally right, even if it isn't in her favor. I was pleased that Mira comes off better in this book. She seemed like a stereotypical popular jerk for much of the first book in the series. Now, she's much more layered and, in many ways, a nicer person than Izzie.
Winter White fulfilled everything I asked of it. Like most chick-lit books, there are things to criticize if you want to do that. But it's meant to be read for enjoyment more than literary analysis. The fundamental themes of the book are very positive. And best of all, it's a lot of fun.
Audiobook: I listened to Winter White on audio and I loved that format. The narrator used an understated southern accent that was pleasant to listen to and was neutral enough that her voice didn't become a character unto itself. I liked the voices she did for each character, which once again was subtle but distinguishable. Best of all, the book and characters still came across as genuine, which hasn't been the case with all audio books.
Rating: 4 / 5
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