ASK ME ANYTHING

Francesca Delbanco, Author . Norton $23.95 (345p) ISBN 978-0-393-05170-4

Ambition and romance collide in Delbanco's uneven debut about an aspiring actress who comes to New York to discover what and whom she really, really wants and how to live with the choices she makes. Rosalie Preston works by day as a GirlTalk columnist doling out sensible advice to lovelorn teens, signing her replies with the arch, "Trust me. I've lived through it." She's still on the learning curve, though, as she struggles to know her own heart. Is it in the acting she does with the First Borns, a small, tight-knit troupe formed while the members were still in college? Or will she find it in romance? The troupe begins to fragment as member Evan is promoted by his boss, one of Broadway's top directors, to help launch a play written by Declan Pearse, a gifted Irish playwright, that will showcase Cam, one of First Born's most talented actors. Soon two other members announce their engagement, leaving Rosalie feeling further out of the loop and ripe for a secret affair with the famous financier Berglan Starker, who's not only the primary bankroller of the troupe but another member's father. Delbanco, a former Seventeen advice columnist, cleverly frames the chapters of her late bloomer's coming-of-age with samples of Rosalie's light "Ask Annie" columns. Unfortunately, these breezy clips are sometimes more entertaining than the heavier narration of Delbanco's self-absorbed protagonist, whose observations alternate between witty—"Edginess is a pheromone; it has physical manifestations"—to the less assured and gooey—"His kiss was so silvery that every inch of my body melted and my shoes slipped right off me onto the floor"—as Rosalie finds the balance between career and love that Delbanco, who shows potential as a prose stylist, hopefully will find in her next novel. Agent, Timothy Seldes. Author tour. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 02/01/2004
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Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-393-32646-8
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