Normally, I don’t go for bildungsroman tales. I have no desire to relive my younger days through fictional surrogates, nor do I often find the protagonists interesting enough to care about. They’re all either too smart for their own good or too dumb for the purposes of entertainment.
But set one in a mall in the early-90s? Now you’re speaking my language.
And Megan McCafferty definitely needs to speak it because this story is stretched as thinly as possible. It works because of the goodwill it builds up for those who appreciate the aesthetic, as well as having an interesting enough lead character.
There’s a plot here, sure. Cassie is dumped by her boyfriend, recovering from mono and biding her time until she can ditch her small Jersey town for college in NYC. The center of her town’s gravity is the massive mall at which she and others work. When she gets a job at a dress store, she and a former best friend who also work at the dress store embark on a treasure hunt because of reasons. Stuff happens.
McCafferty makes it interesting enough by allowing Cassie to go through a physical and emotional metamorphosis. Yes, it hits a lot of beats that the typical bildungsroman do, especially when she throws a parental divorce in there for no reason. But I still engaged with her character and found her familiar, having both loved shopping malls and left my small town for the big city.
And while some of the characters are thin, I appreciated her counterpart in Drea and their development together. Not sure I bought that they were once friends but I appreciated the chemistry they had in that moment.
It’s a fun book if you wanna relive the good ol’ days of being a mallrat, as I once was.