Lavish Reviews: “Bliss” by Shay Mitchell & Michaela Blarney

On the surface, Bliss looks like a super girly book. On the inside, it is a super girly book with an infinitesimal bit of grit and boatloads of scandal to be almost inappropriate for the average teen reader (it’s just right for the 21+ set in YA fiction). Bliss: A Novel (published by St. Martin’s Press) is a collaborative literary effort (with guidance by fellow writer Valerie Frankel) between Shay Mitchell, one of the main actresses of the ABC show Pretty Little Liars, and her friend Michaela Blarney, who has worked in marketing and is a self-professed foodie.

Their first book (individually and together) is focused on the friendship of three girls from the Vancouver end of Canada, and how in high school they made a pact to follow their “bliss”, aka dreams, with open arms no matter the challenges and opportunities ahead. Already the premise is saccharine and is definite chick lit for the kids of Instagram. The stories of the three leads Leandra, Sophia and Demi are loosely based on the authors themselves as their characters experience life as a wannabe glamorous nomad, a struggling actress on the brink and an always in trouble yet talented soon-to-be chef (or is it cook? Should we ask Kelly Bensimon? Watch this!)

I felt that I knew what it was when I picked up Bliss, especially considering the characters were just entering their 20s. They would have little to no clue about anything in life and yet somehow situations would work out in their favor. That’s the thing about your early 20s that I look back on and almost get misty-eyed about. There are moments, and sometimes these moments would linger for weeks at a time(!), that you had behaved so green on, yet being so naive rather than say choosing to not give a damn because you could’ve, made room for universal forgiveness. The second chances feel as if they are aplenty compared to when you get older and you have to work such out of thin air chances and work even harder to maintain it. Bliss becomes Get It Together once you’re over the age of 27.

Bliss: A Novel is a breezy read. There are times you’re into it and swiftly turn the page to see what happens. Without a doubt, the most annoying character is Leandra who is selfish to the point that it’s intolerable. It’s only towards the end that the anti-hero of the trio translates a bit likable, as she carries on her determined quest for the most exciting and gold-lined filled life ever. (Even if she spends 90% of the book like a glamorized squatter). When we first meet Leandra and Demi, they can’t stand each other. Their past blissful promises, and continued friendship wih Sophia, keeps them in each other’s orbit off and on and slowly their judgmental views of the other, they manage to subside for the sake of nostalgia.

There were really only two factors of the book I had questions about. Seemingly, Mitchell and Blarney imagined Leandra, Sophia and Demi as these picture-perfect, non-blemished, oh so gorgeous creatures and it was enough to make your eyes roll every time it was written out. Like, we get it. They look like they belong on the cover of Teen Vogue. If I wanted such sun-kissed descriptions, I would’ve reached for a vintage Sweet Valley High from 1983. The separate paragraphs that Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield both earned for their looks were LOL-worthy. (And I loved me some SVH as a kid). The second thing was the maturity level of some of the situations. Leandra is very sexually active having slept with approximately 20 people (this isn’t slut-shaming. Just mildly impressive considering in the book she just turned 21). Demi once lived with her boyfriend, whom she catches cheating on her in their home (21 and already living with her boyfriend!) and plunges into a sexual rendezous pattern witht he much older boss at the new restaurant she’s helping to launch. Sophia is the only one who is kind of leveling out her experiences, though she too doesn’t live at home and has a job as a hostess/waitress in a nightclub. Damn, these girls live life fast at 21. More so then when I was! But then again, we all have different journeys. I know a handful of girls and boys that could’ve written an autobiography by age 23.

It all wraps up nicely by the last page and again, Leandra’s turning point is oddly the most inspiring part. I hate to use the word “cute” to describe this book, but I will. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s what Bliss is kind of about. Keeping it cute on the outside as far composure and self-esteem goes, even if you’re utterly dying, emotionally, on the inside. Bliss is an actual destination, not just an afterthought.

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