The Debs, by Susan McBride

Much like Gossip Girl, The A-List, Clique, and countless other titles in the booming subgenre of YA literature about rich, beautiful teens cavorting in the wealthiest communities in America, Susan McBride’s The Debs is, at best, a very guilty pleasure. The novel focuses on four Huston debutantes: tree-hugging Ginger Fore, brainy nonconformist Michelle “Mac” Mackenzie, Laura Delacroix Bell, who’s still carrying a torch for her manipulative ex-boyfriend, and Jo Lynn Bidwill, a former child beauty queen who lives to make lesser debutantes’ lives miserable.

The Debs has few redeeming qualities. Setting aside McBride’s constant name-dropping of high-end labels*, her protagonists are neither admirable nor particularly likable. The three “good” characters are irritatingly clueless: Laura spends most of the book mooning after her loser ex, Ginger turns herself inside out to impress an older guy, and Mac (admittedly, the least obnoxious of the bunch) yearns for the boy next door and mouths off to her well-meaning but tacky stepmother. The villainous Jo Lynn is the most interesting character by a mile—she might be nastiness personified, but at least she’s less feeble than her counterparts.

Despite its many faults, however, The Debs will still end up in my “keep” pile. The Houston setting is quirkier than similar books set in California or New York (rich Texan boys drive tricked-out Silverados with loaded gun racks, rather than limos), and McBride is a glib, solidly entertaining writer who knows exactly how many threads to leave dangling to make her open ending tantalizing rather than obnoxious. Plus, the book is an $8.99 paperback, making it an affordable—read: forgivable—cheap thrill.

*Nobody just “gets dressed” in this book. Instead, they slip on la Perla underwear, cover up with a Lilly Pulitzer sundress, swipe on stila lipgloss and Chanel eye shadow, and trot out to their Mercedes Roadsters.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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