Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 16th 2014 by St. Martin's Griffin
Format read: ARC via publisher
With high fashion, the New York social life and some Audrey-inspired magic, this is a tale that will enchant all readers - much like Audrey herself.
Obsessed with everything Audrey Hepburn, Lisbeth is transformed when she secretly tries on Audrey’s iconic Givenchy. She becomes who she wants to be by pretending to be somebody she’s not and living among the young and privileged Manhattan elite. Soon she’s faced with choices that she would never imagine making – between who she’s become and who she once was.
In the tradition of The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada, this is a coming of age story that all begins with that little black dress…
Like many of the other reviewers on Goodreads, I was initially attracted to Being Audrey Hepburn because of the title. I've been an unabashed Audrey Hepburn fan since my dad first introduced me to My Fair Lady at aged six, and I will read or watch anything remotely related to her.
However, after I actually began reading the book, I realized that Mitchell Kreigman's book was a gem in it of itself. This is a thoughtful story on what it means to find your identity using someone else's mantle at first, and how to eventually adjust that mantle to develop your own identity.
Kriegman introduces us to 19-year-old Lisbeth, a Jersey girl who just doesn't fit in. She's surrounded by people who have a less than appealing outlook on life, including a mother and a sister who are beginning to resemble each other in their cynical beliefs.
Lisbeth is all but resigned to live a similar life, when a timely encounter via best friend Jess, with the original dress that Audrey was supposed to wear in Breakfast at Tiffany's, inspires Lisbeth to take on Audrey's persona and pursue the life that she genuinely wants to lead.
Kreigman's book is very much a rags-to-riches story of an urban Cinderella, and it shines through in every facet of the novel. He shows what it means to be in the right place and the right time, but also the hard work that it takes to sustain that initial bit of luck.
I was especially impressed with how layered Kreigman made Lisbeth's journey. We see her struggle with every step of the journey, including her initial disbelief that anyone could think she was something just because of the dress she's wearing, to her gradual mind shift on the opportunities now available to her, from the parties she can now attend, to the free swag that is now literally thrown at her.
But even as Lisbeth tries to juggle the wants between her new world and the old, she also gains in self-awareness. She realizes that there are things about her Jersey upbringing that have made her tougher and stronger than even the most famous pop divas, and she uses that awareness to help decide what life she really wants to lead.
My one issue with the book, is the slightly surprisingly subplot that appears in the latter half of the novel. Kreigman gives very little warning before delving into that subplot, and it makes what could have been a magical tale about one girl's growth, into something that feels a bit manipulated.
However, even with the slightly surprising turn, the book still manages to end on an optimistic note, and readers will have no doubt that Lisbeth will find her way.
I went into the book expecting a fairly pleasant read on a girl trying to be Audrey, and came out of it with a charming, thoughtful and extremely well-written story on what it means to find confidence in your choices, and who you choose to be.
I recommend this book for fans of YA contemporary fiction, but also for readers who are looking for a unique journey of self-discovery.
Recommend for fans of Maureen Johnson (though the story skews a little older), and for fans of shows like Hart of Dixie. (Trust me on this last one - it works.)
About the author:
MITCHELL KRIEGMAN has been published in The New Yorker, The National Lampoon, New York Press, Glamour, and Harper’s Bazaar. A winner of four Emmy Awards and a Directors Guild Award, he was also a writer for Saturday Night Live. Kriegman was the creator of the classic groundbreaking television series Clarissa Explains It All, as well as the executive head writer on Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats, and Doug.