New Money by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Target audience: Adult/mature YA
Keywords: moving to NYC, family secrets/drama, money
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher. (Thank you!)
Other books I’ve reviewed by LZR: Other Words for Love
Summary: Savannah is a small town girl with big dreams of being a writer. A phone calls changes her life’s course when she finally discovers that her recently deceased father was a very rich man in NYC with his own media company. With no prospects in South Carolina, Savannah accepts her inheritance in NYC: a fancy apartment, a new job, and a new family — that wants nothing to do with her. Will her feet stay on the ground now that she has (kind of) reached the big time?
What 24-year-old does not dream of a secure job and an all-expenses paid living situation in NYC? With a very generous allowance? Savannah’s step up from life in South Carolina (struggling to make ends meet with her mom, not finding her dream job) sounds like a Cinderella story, until you factor in that the source of all this glitz and glamour is the deceased father she never knew about. Plus the family he had in New York — a sister, brother, and wife — are anything less than welcoming. In fact, they are downright villainous.
Rosenthal’s New Money provides one of those experiences where you hope the main character does not change because of her newfound journey on the wealthy side. But inevitably, she does. For better and for worse. She may be employed but she has to dodge many unpleasant bullets from her jealous “siblings”; she may finally understand what it’s like to have the opportunities her best friend, Tina, has but it doesn’t necessarily make them closer. Then there’s the cute bartender who makes her feel amazing (in more ways than one) and could also be the key to keeping her grounded. But preconceived notion of “two classes” mixing and other good-looking distractions cause some more trife.
Savannah is definitely a spitfire; there were so many times I admired her chutzpah but there were others where I desperately wanted to shake her and tell her to remember where she came from. (Oh, and keep your apartment clean, please.) I appreciated Rosenthal creating a character who makes so many mistakes; it definitely sped up the pace of the novel because I kept wondering if she could clean up her messes, would she stay in New York, and will she just get over herself already.
New Money is so much about that in-between time in your life when so much is undecided and having the guts to make a move even if it’s totally crazy and unprecedented. The author threw in so many “oh-man” curveballs that I was definitely talking to myself when I was reading it. (The drama is insane.) I loved seeing New York City through the eyes of a newbie, and Rosenthal truly succeeds with bringing depth to her supporting cast. Every single one of them was so well-developed; I felt like I knew them as well as I did Savannah.
I cannot wait to see the mayhem that unfolds in book 2.
A Chat with LZR
1. NEW MONEY is billed as women’s fiction and New Adult. The main character is 24-years old and out of college, trying to figure out her future. I loved this focus. So many NA books are all about sex or a bad boy and this one is really about a young girl making her way. Have you read a lot of NA? What influenced you to go in this direction?
First of all—thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed NEW MONEY’s focus.
I always want to challenge myself and write different types of stories. I haven’t read a great deal of New Adult—which is a relatively new marketing category—but I do like the age range that it encompasses, as there are so many issues for characters to confront when they step into the adult world. The NA genre (as you stated) seems to be mostly sex/romance focused, and NEW MONEY isn’t—that is why it’s billed as Women’s Fiction with a New Adult protagonist. Savannah is in that NA age range—and there definitely is romance in the novel—but this is only part of the story. Savannah also deals with the typical issues of being a twenty-something: finding a job/career, adjusting to the workplace, being away from home/family, dealing with evolving friendships, and figuring out who she wants to become.
2. I absolutely loved your YA debut, OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE. It’s one of my favorite books. While it does deal with heartbreak, the book was more about these three generations of women (mom, sister, main character) making their way. What was the biggest difference in the transition of writing YA to writing adult fiction?
Thanks again for your kind words! You are right that although OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE is about the breakup of a teenage girl (Ari Mitchell)’s first intimate relationship, the story deals with so much more—Ari’s family dynamics, her depression, and her ultimate discovery of her self-worth. When I wrote OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE, I wasn’t strictly targeting a teen audience. I believed that both YA and adult readers could relate to the story—and based on the feedback I have received from readers of many ages, this is true. The adult characters in that novel—including (as you mentioned) Ari’s mother and twenty-three-year-old sister—play a major role in the novel and have their own back-stories. Some aspects of OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE are specific to the teen years, and others aren’t.
Because OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE is a mature YA novel, I didn’t find writing adult fiction to be particularly different; however, the major difference between the two novels is that OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE is rather literary in style—character-driven, often serious, and quite introspective. That story unfolds slowly, and a great deal of it deals with Ari’s deepest thoughts. Although NEW MONEY also has complex characters and emotional resonance, it is a more of a commercial work that is fast-moving and generally lighthearted. So the biggest transition was writing in a different style—but I really enjoyed it. I think it’s important for an author to be versatile and to constantly challenge herself.
3. Savannah definitely has a fiery personality. I adored that about her. But wow, did she make a lot of silly decisions. Are you worried readers might have trouble connecting with Savannah because she is so flawed? (Even if her moves are totally something we might do.)
When I create characters, I always give them positive and negative qualities—because all people have good and not-so-good personality traits. This is how fictitious characters become realistic and relatable. In NEW MONEY, Savannah is thrust into a situation that is amazingly fortunate but also very stressful, problematic, and even dangerous. She has to move from Charleston to Manhattan—where she has never been before—and is forced to interact with people who dislike her (through no fault of her own), constantly look down on her, and do everything they can to get rid of her. These people and their values are foreign to Savannah, so she struggles to understand them and to navigate their world. She has to fight to survive. She is out of her element and therefore doesn’t always know which way to turn or how to make the right decisions, but she genuinely means well. She is down-to-earth and kind at heart, and she is also quite compassionate and generous with her newfound wealth. Although readers perceive characters in their own unique way, I think that most will connect with Savannah. She is a good person who isn’t perfect, doing the best she can in a complicated situation. Additionally, although some of Savannah’s choices don’t work out well, they can be filed under the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” category. I think everyone can relate to that!
4. Have you spent a lot of time in Savannah’s hometown? What kind of research did you do for NEW MONEY?
I have visited Charleston, and I also researched its history, landmarks, culture, etc.
5. Some of the supporting characters in NEW MONEY were truly villainous. I was yelling “oh man!” a lot while reading because I almost couldn’t believe how dirty they played. What was your inspiration for creating these characters so that they weren’t only devious but kind of showed a human side too?
I agree that many of the characters behave in a villainous way. Some are subtle about it, and others are quite blatant—especially Savannah’s half-siblings, Ned and Caroline. These characters deliberately come on strong as soon as they meet Savannah, because they are hoping to scare her away. Her newly-discovered existence has disrupted their lives, they believe she has cheated them out of what is rightfully theirs, and they want her to disappear. They are truly arrogant and condescending—which comes from a lifetime of privilege—but they crank up their superior attitudes to intimidate Savannah. There are, however, many things behind their façades—such as anger, disappointment, insecurity, sadness, and a lot of pain. This is their human side, which they want to hide from Savannah…but she eventually finds it.
While creating these characters, I viewed them in the same way I see all of my characters—as complex people with positive and negative traits. Like Ned and Caroline, other characters who are antagonistic toward Savannah also have reasons for their hostility. Sometimes Savannah has to look closely to find these reasons, but they are there! Even Fabian—the sleazy celebrity-gossip blogger—has a painful past that causes him to act the way he does. Like real people, these characters are the products of their experiences.
6. Okay, I need the dirt. What can we expect in book 2 of this series? (Is it only going to be 2 books?) More of Savannah’s time in NYC? Focus on another character? I must know!
Currently, the series is just two books. Regarding the storyline for the sequel, I can’t reveal that top-secret information! But I can tell you that the second book will be filled with twists and turns just like the first.
Bonus: favorite snack while writing? Chocolate, of course!
Big thanks to Lorraine for taking the time to answer these questions.
Wishing you lots of luck with New Money!