Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: Ten Girls to Watch

Summary: Like so many other recent graduates, Dawn West is trying to make her way in New York City. She’s got an ex-boyfriend she can’t quite stop seeing, a roommate who views rent checks and basic hygiene as optional, and a writing career that’s gotten as far as penning an online lawn care advice column.

So when Dawn lands a job tracking down the past winners of
Charm magazine’s “Ten Girls to Watch” contest, she’s thrilled. After all, she’s being paid to interview hundreds of fascinating women: once outstanding college students, they have gone on to become mayors, opera singers, and air force pilots. As Dawn gets to know their life stories, she’ll discover that success, love, and friendship can be found in the most unexpected of places. Most importantly, she’ll learn that while those who came before us can be role models, ultimately, we each have to create our own happy ending. -- Atria

A few weeks ago, when I went to the shore, I packed a lot of books -- way more than I could ever even begin to read. However, one book that I knew I'd get to (because it was the first one I picked up) was TEN GIRLS TO WATCH by Charity Shumway. I often say that books are the ideal summer reads, but in the case of TEN GIRLS TO WATCH, it truly is. Of course, I liked this book so much that, as far as I'm concerned, it's an ideal read for any time of the year!

TEN GIRLS TO WATCH tells the story of Dawn West, a recent college graduate who is still searching for her ideal job. Heck, if she's being honest, any real job. She writes for an on-line gardening advice column and makes a little money, but it isn't until she gets hired to find all of the past winners of Charm magazine's "Ten Girls to Watch" contest that she has a real... and fulfilling job. As Dawn has the opportunity to talk with and meet these amazing women, she learns what the real meaning of success is and how these women have achieved it.

I adored TEN GIRLS TO WATCH and I think many women will agree with me! While I was expecting a fun, chick lit-type book -- recent college grad living with a messy roommate, struggling to find a job and a man, and so on, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this book had a great deal of substance. That's not to say that this novel wasn't very entertaining and funny to boot, but Dawn wasn't your typical chick-lit style heroine, nor were the various women she encountered through her job. These women were doctors, politicians, scientists, performers, and even mothers; and they all had some valuable life lessons that Dawn was able to take and (hopefully) incorporate into her own life. I'm going to go ahead and say this and I know that I might sounding mushy, but TEN GIRLS TO WATCH made me proud to be a woman!

TEN GIRLS TO WATCH is Charity Shumway's (great name, don't you think?) debut novel; however, it reads like she's a seasoned pro. Her overall character development is fantastic -- I couldn't help but love Dawn, and I appreciated her writing style and her prose. But it's in what she managed to do in just 350 pages that really impressed me. I had the warm fuzzies the entire time I read this novel and I just wanted to celebrate the strength and inner beauty of women!

Prior to writing this review, I learned that Ms. Shumway is quite similar to the character of Dawn -- she actually worked on a research project for Glamor magazine that sounded an awful lot like Dawn's task. You can read more about their similarities (and differences) here. It will quickly become apparent to any one who picks up this book that Ms. Shumway's assignment for Glamor magazine not only made a terrific idea for a novel, but it also deeply affected her because she had the opportunity to talk with so many incredible women.

Another wonderful thing about this novel was that the author included short vignettes (photos and descriptions) about the various Ten Girls to Watch. I loved discovering where these women were when they were chosen for this honor, and then seeing how they ended up. As far as I'm concerned, the women featured in this novel epitomize all of what's good about women; and this novel offers life lesson after life lesson about what it means to be a successful woman -- and I don't just mean that in relation to their careers. I thoroughly enjoyed each of these characters' words of wisdom about their own lives as well as their advice to others -- it was truly inspirational.

TEN GIRLS TO WATCH would make an excellent book club pick! There is a reading guide included in the back of the novel with twelve interesting questions. Of course, you will want to talk about the various "Ten Girls to Watch" and debate each of their merits, but there are also some other themes worth of discussion. Some of the topics you might want to explore include family dynamics, female friendships, guilt/blame, sibling relationships, sisterhood, competition, drive, and the meaning of success.

I just loved TEN GIRLS TO WATCH! It's one of those books that you want to give to every special woman in your life. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Beth F said...

This is sitting at the top of my book pile. I think I need to read this soon. Sounds like a good combination of light reading but with some discussable themes.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like an excellent book and one that a lot of people can relate to.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I'm always drawn to the shows on TV when they feature "where are they now". You know, people who lost 100 pounds, or families that were reunited or whatever. I always want to know the second half of the story! So I know this book would appeal to me. I probably would have quickly written it off as chick lit, but it sounds like there is more to it.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

The author's name definitely sounds like it could be a character name! :--)

Beth Hoffman said...

Terrific review, Julie! This book sounds like a fun read with some depth too!

Serena said...

I totally would have expected this to be too chicklit...but I'm glad that it is not!

Unknown said...

Oh, great review! I know several people that are looking for a book just like this. Perfect summer reading - fun but with substance!

Karlie said...

Sounds like a good one. Maybe for Cape May?

Meg @ write meg! said...

I've had my eye on this one since spotting that fabulous cover a few weeks ago! Glad to hear it's such a great read -- will definitely be getting my hands on it.