“For seventeen years, Charlotte Alexandra Williston has felt as if she’s a supporting character in the ongoing play that is her life. She’s been reading lines someone else wrote instead of saying what she really thinks, never stepping outside of the proverbial prim and proper box containing her well-bred life in Caulfield, Connecticut. But now, she’s determind to create her own story – one in which she’s the star. After graduating high school, she impulsively embarks on a jaunt across Europe with her best friend Molly. From London to Florence to Copenhagen and beyond, Charlotte explores cities and castles, befriends strangers, and shops ‘til she drops. She even meets the guy who just might be the one she’s been waiting for. And in the midst of her adventures, she finds time for reflection in some unlikely places, beginning a new journey that will take her further than any of the planes, trains, and black cabs waiting for her when she arrives…”
Last week I was introduced to a character named Charlotte in Nicole Richie’s Priceless, (and we know how well that went) so when I picked up Confessions of a Teenage Pond Hopper and found the main character was also named Charlotte I first thought “…ah crap”.
Never fear! Charlotte Williston was luckily a much better character to follow than Charlotte Williams.
Just days away from graduating from high school, Charlotte takes off on an impulsive trip across the pond (an idiom referring the Atlantic Ocean that’s between the US and the UK) as a way of stepping out of her tightly laced life that she never really felt was her own. Charlotte is the kind of girl who has always taken the safe route – doing well in school, trying to please her parents, not getting involved in relationships, which has made her life turn out cold and bland. This trip is Charlotte’s rebellion against that life as well as chance to remove herself from it to find herself and what she really wants along the way.
In contrast to Charlotte is her best friend Molly who comes along on the trip with her. Molly is outgoing, lively and has an obsession with shopping (with a credit card limit that accommodates that obsession). Molly balances out Charlotte’s more inhibited nature and encourages her to step outside her shell. It would’ve been nice to see Molly interested in something other than constantly shopping, but she was a good character who obviously cared very much for her best friend and was a total asset to the trip.
The romance in the story between Charlotte and James is completely gorgeous but at times I found myself wistfully thinking “ah if only things like that really happen”. Though their relationship wasn’t completely unrealistic, there was a kind of sweetness and maturity that I felt could only be seen in a fictional book. But maybe I’m a cynic.
Now I’m in two minds about this next point. Either Grossbard has a very sophisticated vocabulary or was a bit too into her thesaurus while writing this book. I felt a bit like a simpleton, needing a dictionary to look up words like “acquiesced” and “nomenclature”, so at times the vocabulary was a bit distracting. On the one hand, I remember an interview with Gilmore Girls writer, Amy Sherman Paladino saying “your audience is only as smart as you let them be” and on the other I’ve heard that you don’t need sophisticated language to tell an amazing story. From the middle towards the end the vocabulary wasn’t really an issue, so it’s kind of a take it or leave it point.
Confessions of a Teenage Pond Hopper is a great coming of age story, and one that feels so completely relevant. I was excited to read this one since I’ve also just graduated (but from college, not high school) and am planning a trip to Europe next year as well. The places Charlotte and Molly travelled to and the experiences they had have completely inspired me. But even if that’s not your specific circumstance, the emotions Charlotte goes through as she examines her life up to that point will ring true with a lot of people, making it a really great read.
Publication Date: September 2010
Teaser Quote: “Thirty-six hours and counting and she was beginning to realize the overwhelming proportions of what she was about to do. A natural worrier, she never did anything without thinking it through. And now it was all about to change”.