Book review: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell

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Judy Blundell’s clever and oh-so-sophisticated Strings Attached is that rare thing ... a young adult novel with no vampires, no witches, no angels and no demons.

Her coming-of-age story about a 1950s American chorus girl who gets caught up in the deadly world of gangsters features real people with real lives, real emotions and real dilemmas.

It’s a nail-biting mystery, a tear-jerking romance and a convincing and enthralling evocation of the darker side of the glitz and glamour of the post-war ‘American Dream.’

Blundell, author of the stunning bestseller What I Saw and How I Lied, should offer masterclasses in good writing techniques ... the hallmarks of her classy novels are literary excellence, superb structure, believable dialogue and intelligent plotting.

Her new heroine is Kit Corrigan, a feisty, fast-talking redhead from Irish stock who leaves her home in Providence, Rhode Island, to find fame and fortune in the bright lights of New York.

A triplet, who lost her mother at birth, 17-year-old Kit’s childhood was dominated by singing and dancing lessons and it seems a natural progression to set her sights on Broadway, even though it means leaving behind her boyfriend Billy Benedict who will soon be heading off to Korea with the US Army.

Success, of course, is hard to find on the chorus line in Manhattan and she soon finds herself envying the likes of hard-bitten thirty-something Shirley who never stops believing that a Hollywood scout will pluck her from obscurity. ‘Must be nice to have hope in your pocket, like loose change you could jingle through your fingers.’

Then Billy’s dad Nate Benedict turns up. He’s a lawyer with links to the ruthless Italian Mob and he makes Kit an offer she can’t refuse.

Soon she has a luxury home, expensive clothes and a top job in an exclusive night club, but it all comes at a price that puts the ambitious but naive Kit into the path of extreme danger.

As her dreams of being a stage star start to come true, secrets from the past emerge, the terrible truth about the city’s clubland is revealed and Kit learns that no deal is offered without strings attached...

Blundell’s vibrant and atmospheric writing gives the memorable Kit an authentic voice and personality allowing her story to unfold through flashbacks and a range of well-drawn, almost tangibly real characters from her drunken father to the corrupt Nate and his vulnerable son Billy.

Tense and tender, brutal and beautiful, complex and compelling, Strings Attached will pull on the heartstrings of readers young – and not-so- young.

(Scholastic, paperback, £7.99)