Twins Sam and Ilsa are graduating seniors throwing one of their last dinner parties at their grandmother Czarina’s swanky (but rent-controlled) apartment at the Stanwyck in Manhattan while she and their parents are out of town. The tradition for the guest list is that each invites three people but doesn’t tell the other who is coming, which makes for an unpredictable and often volatile mix of personalities. Invited to this last party are past boyfriends, a foreign exchange student who communicates mostly through a sock puppet (yes, you read that right), a violinist met casually on the subway who shows up with a collection of Dolly Parton figurines, and two longtime friends. Sam’s the chef, and Ilsa decorates.
Sam and Ilsa have expectations that the party will be a farewell of sorts to their old lives and a kickoff of their new lives, but both are afraid of the future and hesitant to venture out into new territory, whether it be academic, social or personal. Neither speaks frankly to the other. Each harbors various resentments and frustrations that they mask with glib exchanges or what they perceive as helpful, instructive comments. In fact, just about everybody in the book talks that way, making it really tiresome to read. The characters are just too, too clever and sophisticated, and a lot of the book is just pretentious and silly. At the end of the book, Sam and Ilsa return to the Stanwyck after a ten-year absence and celebrate the fantastic changes they have made in themselves. I don’t buy it.
Lots of bitchy, smart-ass language (there’s no other way to put it), LGBTQIA issues, sexual references (but nothing graphic), and the usual teenage alcohol use.