The easiest way for me to describe, “Brooklyn Girls,” from screen-writer and author Gemma Burgess, is that it harkens to the world of Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls, if all of the characters in Girls were softened slightly, worked a little harder, and lived happily-ever-after.
When I initially picked up “Brooklyn Girls,” I admit, I was hooked by the plot summary alone: Pia, a recent college graduate, struggling to balance new-found independence, socializing, romance, friendships, finances, and finding a full-time job decides to ditch the recent grad conundrum- “you need experience to get hired for the job, but you you can’t get experience until you’ve been hired for the job”- and open her own health-food food truck in New York City. I mean, come on, what recent female graduate doesn’t think that sounds like sure-fire entertainment?
To be fair, for the majority of this novel, my expectations were met, and I became hooked. The protagonist, Pia, is a strong, intelligent woman who is battling with her perception of inferiority among her parents and ex-boyfriend. At the novel’s open, she has just moved to NYC with her best friend from college, Julia, Julia’s younger sister, Coco, Pia’s best friend from childhood, Angie, and Pia’s enemy from college (and also Julia’s best friend) Madeline. After a rather booze-filled night, Pia gets fired from her new job due to inappropriate photos on Facebook and is forced to look for new work. Fearing that her parents, who live in Germany, will swoop in and pull her away from her new “adult” life, Pia realizes that she needs to secure a job fast, and after being fired as a waitress, she discovers the food-truck business by chance and decides to purchase a little pink truck- which she names Toto- and starts her own business, Skinny Wheels. Pia’s intention with Skinny Wheels is to cater to young professionals who genuinely enjoy food and who want to get a quick lunch that won’t go “straight to their thighs” or leave them in a greasy coma. To start her business, Pia borrows money from a loan-shark, and it seems like her business is an instant success. However, she soon realizes the true depth of her endeavor, the viciousness of her competitors, and the scope of sheer exhaustion, which of course, drives the majority of the entertaining plot. Pia is also introduced to an attractive British man whom she can’t stop thinking about, so of course, that is another aspect to look forward to as well. Through all the ensuing romance, business chaos, and friendship struggles, you will be entertained as you watch Pia discover her passion for entrepreneurship and develop a true love for her food-truck baby.
Despite a promising plot, Brooklyn Girls does fall flat in a few different ways. First, I often found it difficult to read the often overly sentimental moments of the novel. While it is nice to read about friendships growing, and Pia’s own personal growth, her comments can sound more similar to the inside of a Hallmark card than to a typical person’s inner- dialogue. On top of that, without giving too much away, I felt that the way circumstances resulted for Pia was unrealistic. In fact, I found it so extreme that it could almost seem like a slap-in-the-face for other hard working 20-somethings (or maybe that’s just me!), and may taste a little sour to the women out there who are living the “real-life” version of Pia’s circumstance.
What I found positive about Brooklyn Girls was that some of its particular lines will truly hit home to any 20-something just getting started professionally- in fact, I found myself frequently highlighting passage to refer back to in the future. One of my favorite elements of the novel is that, gradually, the girls each find strength and support in themselves and through each other. It seems that each of the friends is battling with her own personal drama and is somehow perceiving that the others are doing it better or have it all figured out. As Pia comes to realize that maybe all her friends are about to fall apart, she recognizes her responsibility to help and care for her friends, and it is obvious that all of the girls behave reciprocally. It is a great way to illustrate women helping women- even if, sometimes, the illustration is just a little too cheesy.
Overall, I do recommend Brooklyn Girls, as long as you bare in mind that it may be slightly unrealistic. But, at least Burgess wants us to believe in the benefits of hard work, right? If you do find that you are a fan of the novel, you are in luck, as Burgess will be releasing a series of novels, each from the perspective of a different girl in Pia’s apartment- so stay tuned!