“The 20’s are the decade of most change in your
life,” novelist Francesca Delbanco said, quoting her mother.
“Because when you enter them you’re a kid, and when you
leave it is time to be an adult.”

Delbanco captures this moment in between college and the rest of
life in her witty first novel, “Ask Me Anything.” The
story follows 26 year-old Rosalie Preston who works in New York
City as a teen magazine advice columnist by day and a small time
theater actress by night.

Rosalie is likeable and complex as she endures a tumultuous year
comprised of acting rehearsals, an affair with her friend’s
father and the daily task of advising angst filled teenagers. The
first person narrative immediately brings Rosalie to life with
profound honesty. “I wanted her to be a really smart version
of a 26 year-old, but still like a kid who is figuring everything
out,” Delbanco explained.

While Rosalie is the leading lady of “Ask Me
Anything,” her supporting cast is an entertaining ensemble of
varied characters including best friend Grace, rich girl Bella,
friend-with-benefits Cam, director Evan, lover Berglan Starker
(Bella’s father) and Irish playwright Declan.

Fans of “Sex and the City” will notice some
similarities in the antics of these characters and the sexual
nature of their single lifestyles. However, Delbanco admits she had
never seen the show before this year. Unlike the racy HBO drama,
“Ask Me Anything” manages to be sexy without long,
descriptive sexual encounters.

A humorous addition between chapters are the letters Rosalie
receives as “Annie Answers” and her responses about
love, life and relationships for teens like “Wigging in
California” and “Not Popular in Montana.”

The idea for Rosalie’s day job actually came from
Delbanco’s real-life work as an advice columnist for
Seventeen and Teen People in New York. “I did receive
hundreds of those letters over the years, so much so that they ring
in my head,” she laughed.

Delbanco graduated from Harvard University before receiving her
Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan. Her
father is also a professor at the University and a writer, but
Delbanco said she didn’t get interested in writing until her
junior year in college.

Coming home to Michigan in February for a reading from
“Ask Me Anything,” the new author received a warm
welcome at Shaman Drum, where family and friends squeezed into the
crowded shop. Delbanco’s humorous text and entertaining
presentation had the audience laughing despite the close
quarters.

Delbanco spent four years creating “Ask Me Anything”
and is currently working on a second novel while freelancing for
women’s magazines in Los Angeles. Her interests center on
true-to-life modern fiction and she strives to achieve a
distinctive voice in her writing. “I hope that is what makes
my writing different from the next book that you pick up,”
she said. Rosalie’s character lets Delbanco’s voice
shine through in this insightful and lighthearted tale of love and
the search for self after college.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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