Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Summary: It's 2006 in the Manhattan of the young and glamorous. Money and class are colliding in a city that is about to go over a financial precipice and take much of the country with it. At 26, bright, funny and socially anxious Evelyn Beegan is determined to carve her own path in life and free herself from the influence of her social-climbing mother, who propelled her through prep school and onto the Upper East Side. Evelyn has long felt like an outsider to her privileged peers, but when she gets a job at a social network aimed at the elite, she's forced to embrace them.
Recruiting new members for the site, Evelyn steps into a promised land of Adirondack camps, Newport cottages and Southampton clubs thick with socialites and Wall Streeters. Despite herself, Evelyn finds the lure of belonging intoxicating, and starts trying to pass as old money herself. When her father, a crusading class-action lawyer, is indicted for bribery, Evelyn must contend with her own family's downfall as she keeps up appearances in her new life, grasping with increasing desperation as the ground underneath her begins to give way.
Evelyn is a graduate of a tony prep school but is not on the inside. She's faked her way into a job at startup that's to cater to what in the US would be the landed gentry (read: the Old Monied) and she's in charge of recruitment. She decides to put her tenuous connections to this world to work and kill two birds with one stone and procure members while also ingratiating herself with the gilded butterfly at the top of the social heap. So begins this sad and if I'm honest, a bit overwrought, tale of the rise and fall of Evelyn Beegan in the halcyon days before the financial collapse of 2008, our Everywoman who dared like Icarus and burnt out trying to fly with her "betters".
This is a well done enough story but sadly, there was nothing new on this take of this well trod territory. I have a complicated relationship with ingratiators. I'm altogether fascinated and repelled by them so I rarely pass up the opportunity to read a story about another on the outside looking in who's trying to devise ways to actually gain access. Evelyn displayed all the usual hallmarks these characters tend to, complete with stark cravenness and blatant misuse of friendships all in order to get in with people who would have otherwise had no interest in her. I remain stunned that this is a thing. What Evelyn didn't do was make me feel anything for her beyond a vague and removed fascination. There wasn't anything that made her stand out in the pantheon of literary ingratiators and outsiders I've read about (Lee of Sittenfeld's Prep or Tom of Highsmith's The Talented Mr Ripley). I found that unfortunate and as such, I can't say this was a great and ground-breaking read, it was simply okay. While there are better novels on class and classism in America, this isn't a bad read. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves such stories or is even new to the type.
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
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