Messina, Lynn. Savvy Girl. Harcourt, 2008. ISBN 978-0152061616 252 pp. $
A summer internship at a women’s magazine introduces Long Island ingénue Chrissy Gibbons to the glamorous world of high fashion at a fast pace. Although the work part isn’t everything she dreamed (no cover articles, just reading endless query letters and working on the health section while the health editor she works frenetically plans her wedding, instead of doing her work), the fashion editor befriends her. Former model Jessica takes Chrissy under her wing, dishing gossip, complimenting her accidentally audacious fashion sense and bringing her to a number of fancy cocktail parties, where Chrissy tries to rub elbows with a gorgeous college intern on another magazine.
The whirlwind of gaiety puts Chrissy’s friendship with her BBF under a great deal of strain (Lily’s parents are mid-divorce, and Chrissy just isn’t there for Lily) and there is also an essay competition at the magazine to content with.,The grand prize winner will earn her very own recurring Savvy Girl column and a $10, 000 for college.
All these plot points sound like a lot to juggle, but Messina does it deftly, blending family tensions, working strife, and romance into a compelling, fast paced story about a 17-year-old girl learning that nothing in like comes easy. Not as slick as Gossip Girls, Chrissy’s observations and experience deliver a more realistic version of life in NY and mixing with the elite of the fashion world.
The writing sparkles off the page on several occasions; “Lily chain-smokes guys,” is just one great line that stands out. Clearly, Messina has a word a day calendar like her protagonist: cerulean, audacious, and urbane aren’t words that pop up notice in your average teen trade paperback novel. The chapter headings are very clever, with sensationalist and playful magazine article-style titles, like “Fatal Crush Or Hunger Pangs? Take Our True Love Challenge” in a chapter where Chrissy meets one smooth player. Messina’s bio indicates she’s worked at several “women’s glossies,” and the authenticity comes as Chrissy experiences a variety of personalities, tasks and lessons learned.
All told, this is a solid story, well executed, with a likeable and dynamic main character, and a sweet and satisfactory ending almost as good as cookie dough ice cream. Recommended for larger collections.