Thursday, August 8, 2019

Book Review: "That's What Frenemies Are For" by Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell

Julia Summers is struggling to stay at the apex of her social circle. Even with all of the trappings of luxury she has, from the exceptionally decorated apartment on the Upper East Side to the children in an exclusive private school, she often feels a tiny bit insecure about her social position, so she's always looking for an opportunity to stand out.

Through the years she's been successful, being on the cutting edge of trends she introduces to her friends, or maneuvering to get on certain committees or attend certain events. (Plus, she's not above a cutting insult or two to keep others down.)

This summer she's hit a bit of a rough patch. Their house in the Hamptons needs to be completely renovated so she's stranded in New York City, which means she won't get to attend the parties or be part of the gossip. Plus, her husband's business is in a bit of trouble, which makes them the object of gossip, not the instigators.

But when she meets Tatum, a spin instructor at an up-and-coming boutique gym in her neighborhood, Julia thinks she may have found her next project. Tatum is a small-town girl who moved to New York with big dreams that haven't been realized, and she's desperate to succeed.

Julia realizes that with a makeover, some self-confidence, and some tweaks to her brand, Tatum could reinvent herself and become the type of fitness guru Julia's friends would clamor to patronize. And Julia would get the credit for being the one to bring Tatum to everyone's attention, thus cementing her status as a trendsetter. Plus, Julia can get herself into top shape while everyone's away for the summer. Sounds like a win-win proposition.

Things don't quite go as planned, however. As Julia helps to transform Tatum, she doesn't realize just how rabidly ambitious Tatum is, and how much she desires the kind of life Julia has. She's also unprepared for just how much trouble her husband's business—and her husband himself—may be in, because he doesn't want to discuss it with her.

When Tatum starts shifting the balance of power between her and Julia, she realizes she has what it takes to go even further, and she doesn't care if she leaves Julia in the dust, and she's willing to put her there herself. And when Julia's husband is arrested for fraud and bribery, she suddenly finds herself on the outside looking in, with many of her so-called friends abandoning her.

As Julia tries to readjust her life and cope with her husband's problems and Tatum's agenda, she has to decide whether she wants everything to go back to the way it was, or whether it's time for a bit of a change. Whatever she decides, she's certainly not one to fade away!

That's What Frenemies Are For is a fun, light read, and provides some terrific social commentary. I felt as if Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell did a great job capturing social dynamics of women in certain circles, how precarious your position can be, and how much it depends on what you can offer, whom you know, or what you have. Additionally, having been addicted to spin before I became allergic to the gym (kidding), they really described that culture so perfectly.

I was expecting this to be a little funnier than it was, but I still enjoyed this book. This is the perfect late-summer beach or vacation read—maybe you'll realize that your life is pretty great the way it is, or maybe you'll recognize your social circle in the book. (I don't judge.)

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