Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Scholastic Inc, New York, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-545-22127-6
Kit Corrigan is having a tough time making it as an actress in New York City. She’s in the chorus of a terrible musical called That Girl from Scranton! and sleeping on the couch in a co-star’s home. When her ex-boyfriend’s father shows up backstage one night and offers to let her live in an empty apartment he owns, she knows better than to trust him. Nate Benedict is a notorious lawyer for the mob and will do anything to reunite with his estranged son, Billy. If Kit weren’t so desperate, she’d tell him to buzz off; but she is desperate, so she accepts his offer.
She soon learns that his generosity comes with strings attached (hence the title). Nate not only gets Kit an apartment, but a job at a swanky nightclub called the Lido. Soon he’s asking her to spy on the gang members that hang out there. Kit wants to be independent of Nate, but she soon becomes so enmeshed in his shady deals, escape becomes impossible. When Billy finally returns on leave from the army, she must decide whether or not to tell him the truth about his father or maintain the lie about her and Nate’s arrangement.
Judy Blundell has a terrific way of capturing post World War II life in America. Her previous book, What I Saw and How I Lied was an amazing noirish thriller in which a young girl experiences a murder which might involve her parents (see August 6 blog post ). Strings Attached takes place in roughly the same time period and also concerns a young woman and a murder. In this case, the mystery isn’t so much who did it, but what Kit can do to expose the criminal. As a teenager, she doesn’t have many options and part of the suspense lies in how Kit will extricate herself from the situation she has put herself in.
Kit is a tough young woman with the strength and determination to make her a sympathetic character. She makes some mistakes, which make her flawed and human. While the story takes place in the seedy world of organized crime, it isn’t as dark and complicated as What I Saw and How I Lied. In that book, the reader was left not knowing who to trust or whether the narrator was a hero or villain. While there are some ambiguous characters and situations here, the heroes and villains are more obvious, which affected my enjoyment of the book.
Still, Blundell is a master in recreating life in New York City in 1950. She’s clearly done her research and fills the story with terrific details about Broadway, New York City nightclubs, and the growing power of the mob. The book feels like an old black and white movie with tough thugs and talking smart dames.
Information about the author
From the author’s Amazon.com page, “Judy Blundell’s What I Saw and How I Lied is the 2008 winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. As Jude Watson, she is the author of several titles in the New York Times bestselling 39 Clues series as well as the bestselling Star Wars: Last of the Jedi and Jedi Quest series. She lives in Katonah, New York.
Young Adult Fiction
Reading Level / Interest Age
Grade 9 and up