Wednesday, June 24, 2015

‘Oh, Yeah, Audrey!’ (Book Review)

Last year must have been a big year for Audrey Hepburn fans because Oh, Yeah, Audrey! A Novel (Amulet Books/Abrams, 2014) by Tucker Shaw is the second teen novel inspired by Breakfast at Tiffany’s (and written by a man) that I’ve read that was published in 2014. At its bare bones, I liked the book. SPOILER ALERT! Teenaged Gemma, obsessed with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, meets up in New York City with other fans she’s met online. Their goal is to complete a walking tour of places associated with the book and movie and finish up with a movie screening, all in honor of some anniversary. Blinded by her love and admiration for Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn), Gemma refuses to see the character for what she is: a prostitute. Gemma is convinced that the men in the book just liked handing over money for the sheer privilege of being in Holly’s company.

The meetup and tour get started, but Gemma quickly finds herself swept off her feet by one of the guys she met online. So much so that she abandons the rest of her friends and the tour. And who wouldn’t? Dusty is filthy rich and well-connected. He buys Gemma a vintage evening dress (previously owned by Hepburn herself). He takes Gemma to an exclusive art gallery opening, an overbooked classy restaurant, and an underground music venue. Gemma is infatuated with him but unaware that Dusty doesn’t share her feelings. He just considers it all advance payment for the services she’s expected to render at the end of their evening.

With this storyline, I think Oh, Yeah, Audrey had a lot of promise. However, when it comes to the execution, I would’ve preferred more. The book got a really, really slow start. And I mean really. Over 100 pages in (out of 243 pages total), I still didn’t know the plot. The author could’ve speeded things up by jumping right into the action, revealing the necessary background information as each character was introduced rather than placing so much at the beginning.

The characters didn’t need so much introduction anyway. They were rather cookie-cutter, even for Young Adult Fiction. It’s far-fetched enough to have one rich guy spending money like water on the heroine, but to be honest, two is a bit ridiculous. The book also fed off of some particularly annoying stereotypes: all Californians are rich, all Asian men are gay, and all gays are fashionable. All this wrapped up into one dreadful character, or should I say caricature. Or maybe it’s brilliant parody of Mickey Rooney’s dreadful portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi. I can’t tell. At any rate, it does raise the question of why a Japanese-American would be so in-love with the whole Breakfast at Tiffany’s craze.

As for improving the main plot: I would’ve liked to have seen Gemma come into conflict with Holly Golightly’s other unseemly characteristics, not just her escort service. It seemed as if Shaw’s heroine had read a rose-colored version of Truman Capote’s short-story, free of theft, racism, and slander. The subplots also could’ve benefited from further development. I don’t think Shaw got his money’s worth out of them. Gemma and her friends come to terms with their sort-of-enemy way too early in the course of the story. Gemma’s parental issues seem relegated to needless filler. I also think that the significance of the heroine abandoning the walking tour for a date is lost when the reader considers that she and her friends together had abandoned it to go shopping and checkout the Hepburn dress auction beforehand.

I guess in the end I have to admit disappointment. Oh, Yeah, Audrey had not just an entertaining story to tell, but also an important lesson about how naïve young people can end up in trouble. I really wish the book had been a draft, not the finished product. Some teen girls will probably like it, but I think it ended up as merely a shadow of what it could’ve been. If asked, I’d have to recommend Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman instead.

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