Wildchilds, by Eugenia Melian***

I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go to Net Galley and Fashion Sphinx Books.

The world of fashion is about as far from my orbit as anything could be (wrote the reviewer from her armchair while wearing her favorite chenille robe and slippers.) However, I have taken a few wild literary chances that have paid off, and an online acquaintance said she had enjoyed this novel, so I plunged. Although I did learn some things, it didn’t work for me as well as I had hoped.

Conceptually, it’s interesting. Lou has never known her father Gus, who was a successful photographer, and due to the terms of his will, she must now travel to Paris and retrieve an important collection of his work. Others are also after it, though neither she nor her mother Iris, who is traveling with her, know why. There are dark doings in the world of fashion, and what’s more, the teaser tells us that this is a fictionalized account of real events.

The problem here is that I don’t believe one of the two main characters, and no novel of any kind works if the reader sees too much of the writer behind the character. It’s like in the movie, where Toto pulls the curtain away and we see that the great and powerful Oz is just a little guy talking into a microphone. This is what happens to me when I read Lou’s character. My sense is that the author may not have spent a lot of time with adolescents. The teenager is the star of his or her own personal world, and even the most successful entertainers and artists are their children’s audience, not the reverse. Lou, on the other hand, just can’t get enough of her mother’s memories. Iris talks and talks; Lou soaks it all in and begs for more. Perhaps the author’s purpose was to provide Iris with the chance to tell her story, but if so, it would have been more effective with another adult character, because children don’t behave this way. The news of a father that Iris wouldn’t tell her about earlier helps make her curiosity more credible, but Iris’s recollections travel far and wide, and Lou never cuts her off or redirects her.

In more expert hands, this might have been a chance to develop a very unusual literary teenager, but it’s a tough job, and I didn’t see that happen. Once Lou’s development comes apart, there’s not much purpose to the rest of it, apart from the information one can learn about the fashion industry and its history.

This book is recommended to a niche audience, and it is for sale now.