A radiant debut novel about stumbling through the early years of adulthood—and a love letter to the role models who light the way.
Like so many other recent graduates, Dawn West is trying to make her way in New York City. She’s got an ex-boyfriend she can’t quite stop seeing, a roommate who views rent checks and basic hygiene as optional, and a writing career that’s gotten as far as penning an online lawn care advice column.
So when Dawn lands a job tracking down the past winners of Charm magazine’s “Ten Girls to Watch” contest, she’s thrilled. After all, she’s being paid to interview hundreds of fascinating women: once outstanding college students, they have gone on to become mayors, opera singers, and air force pilots. As Dawn gets to know their life stories, she’ll discover that success, love, and friendship can be found in the most unexpected of places. Most importantly, she’ll learn that while those who came before us can be role models, ultimately, we each have to create our own happy ending.
Shumway's easy-going debut follows Dawn West, a recent Harvard grad living in Brooklyn trying to become a writer. She has few friends apart from her ex-boyfriend, and the only writing she manages is for a lawn care advice column. An assignment finally lands in her lap when she serendipitously meets the editor-in-chief of Charm magazine, whose "Ten Girls to Watch" feature is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Dawn's job is to track down all 500 past winners for a special section in the magazine. Though intimidated by the numerous superstars on the list, Dawn dives in and connects with a spectacularly diverse assortment of women. The "Ten Girls" alumnae, and their overarching message that success comes in many forms, inspire Dawn to take charge of her life. She starts writing fiction again, reconnects with her family, and pursues a romance with Charm's dating columnist. But when an almost unbelievable series of disasters strikes, her newfound resolve is tested. A smoothly paced plot, peppered with robust vignettes from Charm's success stories and quirky details from Dawn's life, ensures a fast, funny, and moving read.
Dawn takes me back to my own days out of college. Her hopefulness and loneliness and humor are so easily relatable. Inspiring if you're struggling through, and a grateful window into how far you've come for those who've already made it.