Bettina Ballentyne is a chocolate heiress only by name; it is her glamorous and narcissistic mother, Babs, who lives up to the billing and plays by no one’s rules. Navigating a simultaneously treacherous and alluring landscape of wealth, sex, and decadence—first in her privileged childhood in Chicago and later at a top-tier east coast boarding school—Bettina must figure out how to reconcile her yearning for maternal affection with her mother’s take-no-prisoners-style parenting.
Ashley Prentice Norton’s unflinching eye and acerbic wit capture Bettina’s coming of age with the perfect mixture of tragic and comic. Simultaneously sassy, deeply twisted, and uproariously funny, the novel’s sharp and sparkly humor will have you laughing during its darkest moments. A mesmerizing portrayal of the corrosive effects of an American fortune, The Chocolate Money is a shocking and intensely readable debut.
This is the story of Bettina Ballentyne, only child of the terrible Babs, heiress to a massive chocolate fortune. A precocious 10-year-old when we meet her, Bettina's a careful student of her mother, following her rules (Babs "refuses to have a fat daughter," so Bettina never eats the family chocolate), noting her etiquette reminders (a man who can't afford to buy his mistress really good jewels should stick to flowers), and memorizing her sex tips (the proper terminology for oral sex, Babs advises, is "admiring the centerfold"). In later sections, 15-year-old Bettina's at prep school, where she undergoes the usual harassment by mean girls, discovers a taste for rough sex, and realizes that her roommate's boyfriend is the son of her mother's lover, a man Bettina nursed a crush on. Things end predictably badly, and for all the book's desire to shock (there's a lot of sex and sex talk, and Babs is a bad mother on an epic scale) it never quite does. Babs is too cartoonish, Bettina too blase, and the writing too stilted (a problem made worse by the lack of contractions in speech) for us to care much, sex scenes notwithstanding. Agent: Bill Clegg, WME Entertainment. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 16, 2012
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