Wildchilds

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go to Net Galley and Fashion Sphinx Books. 

The world of fashion is about as far from my orbit as anything could be (wrote the reviewer from her armchair while wearing her favorite chenille robe and slippers.) However, I have taken a few wild literary chances that have paid off, and an online acquaintance said she had enjoyed this novel, so I plunged. Although I did learn some things, it didn’t work for me as well as I had hoped.

Conceptually, it’s interesting. Lou has never known her father Gus, who was a successful photographer, and due to the terms of his will, she must now travel to Paris and retrieve an important collection of his work. Others are also after it, though neither she nor her mother Iris, who is traveling with her, know why.  There are dark doings in the world of fashion, and what’s more, the teaser tells us that this is a fictionalized account of real events. 

The problem here is that I don’t believe one of the two main characters, and no novel of any kind works if the reader sees too much of the writer behind the character. It’s like in the movie, where Toto pulls the curtain away and we see that the great and powerful Oz is just a little guy talking into a microphone. This is what happens to me when I read Lou’s character. My sense is that the author may not have spent a lot of time with adolescents. The teenager is the star of his or her own personal world, and even the most successful entertainers and artists are their children’s audience, not the reverse. Lou, on the other hand, just can’t get enough of her mother’s memories. Iris talks and talks; Lou soaks it all in and begs for more. Perhaps the author’s purpose was to provide Iris with the chance to tell her story, but if so, it would have been more effective with another adult character, because children don’t behave this way. The news of a father that Iris wouldn’t tell her about earlier helps make her curiosity more credible, but Iris’s recollections travel far and wide, and Lou never cuts her off or redirects her.

 In more expert hands, this might have been a chance to develop a very unusual literary teenager, but it’s a tough job, and I didn’t see that happen. Once Lou’s development comes apart, there’s not much purpose to the rest of it, apart from the information one can learn about the fashion industry and its history. 

This book is recommended to a niche audience, and it is for sale now.
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From the moment I saw the cover of Wildchilds, I was intrigued. And then I read the description of the book, and I knew I needed to read this book. While I’ve never been interested in modeling myself, I’ve always been interested in the fashion industry. And then I found out that the author of Wildchilds, Eugenia Melian, is a former model. That just makes this whole book so much cooler.

Wildchilds follows former model Iris, who after just a few short years in the modeling world, leaves Paris abruptly, never to return. We have two points of view and two storylines. The first is told in third person and takes place in our present day. The second is told in first person, and follows Iris’ life years ago, as a model. The story begins with Iris receiving a letter stating that Gus, the former love of her life whom she hasn’t seen since leaving Paris, has died. That’s only the first page, and even from there, this story is a wild ride.

I fell in love with this book immediately. Iris is just so relatable. And the writing? The writing is amazing. It’s gritty, yet beautiful at the same time. Wildchilds is one of the best written books I’ve read in a while. I would one hundred and ten percent recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
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What a timely book. 

Iris is a former model and single mom. She's living a quiet life as a sculptor and receives the new that her daughter's father has died. Iris must travel to Los Angeles to sort through the paperwork of his estate and doing so bring about painful memories of her past life.

There are very dark parts of Iris's story explored. The illicit love affair, and pain that was inflected both physically and mentally. This isn't a light-hearted read. This is a book of pain and struggle and honesty.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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This was my first choice for my first NetGalley Advanced Reviewer Copy (ARC), so trust me when I say, I really wanted to give this debut novel more than two stars. The story was good, and I can tell it was deeply personal for Author Eugenia Meliàn. Unfortunately, Wildchilds was not executed well, like reading a proofread first draft rather than a final product.

Here’s the deal with Wildchilds: it’s a story about the dark side of the fashion industry, a #MeToo coming out for a sector that has yet to acknowledge its dirty secrets.

Wildchilds concentrates on Iris, a former Paris model now living in a sort of exile with her teenage daughter, Lou. When Iris’s former lover—who is also the father of Lou—dies, she’s forced to return to Paris to secure his photography estate for her daughter. In doing so, Iris must confront the hidden demons from her past and the trauma she endured as a model many years ago.

Great concept, right? Ms. Meliàn is a former model herself and a veteran agent in the fashion industry, so she gives the reader a real inside look into the profession. However, once I began to read, the story took a turn for the worse.

The transitions between points-of-view (POV) and timelines were choppy. At certain parts, Ms. Meliàn transitioned from a third-person POV on one character, to a first-person POV from a completely different character within the same paragraph. Other times, she did not include paragraph breaks, chapter breaks, or character labels when switching POV, creating a sense of daunting confusion for the reader.

Often, her dialogue was shallow or repetitive, slowing the story’s pace. Frequently, she’d spend several paragraphs describing the physical attributes of something—a person or a setting—but skirted over the types of important, profound emotions, backstory, or narration readers crave. Her writing usually told, but rarely showed.

The result was a feeling of disconnect, of a story that dragged, of one-dimensional characters. This book had so much more potential.

I do believe Ms. Meliàn has it in her to turn this novel around and create a magnificent piece of work. Her ability to write well with deep suspense and intensity shone through from time to time, especially during a pivotal confrontation between the main protagonist and her dark antagonist. I would encourage Ms. Meliàn to seek out a strong structural editor who can help to hone her craft and work this book into one that would touch many lives.

As it stands now, however, I cannot find it in myself to give Wildchilds more than two stars. I do hope that changes one day.

(NOTE: I only reviewed this book on Goodreads, my own blog, and my e-newsletter, but will not publish it to Amazon since it's less than three stars.)
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“That’s the business, Iris.  It’s a ruthless industry.  People’s love lasts but one season.”

In a novel that is fiction meets memoir, Eugenia Melian (who has worked in the industry as model, agent, producer, and music supervisor in Milan, Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles) tells the story of former top model in Paris, Iris, who has to make the choice to extract herself from her greatest love, Gus and the industry itself. We meet her present day living in La Arboleda on a ranch in Northern California, a far cry from the thrills and noise of the city. Single motherhood has fit her well, raising Lou all on her own after tragedy, a teen girl who looks and carries herself as gracefully as Iris, her life feels full enough. Maybe she doesn’t quite fit in with all the moms walking around in their yoga pants, but this is the calm her soul thrives on. The past eleven years, this has been paradise, peaceful, quiet until shocking news comes screaming that Gus, the father Lou has never met, the famous art and fashion photographer Iris once was muse and lover of, has died! She hadn’t even known he was sick!

Long ago, escaping that life, that admittedly was thrilling, fulfilling for a while she never imagined normal wouldn’t be so easy to attain. Loss after loss followed, and here now Lou blames her mother for ‘never marrying my father’, blames the man who never bothered to know his girl so how is she expected to feel anything, she doesn’t know him!, Worse still, how is she to come to terms with knowing she will never know her father Gus now? Isn’t fury a normal reaction? In fact, Lou badgers her, wanting to know why she won’t go back into modeling, who is dumb enough to give up fame, money, admiration of men, Paris, New York?  Iris is too scared to reveal the real reasons, the dark side of that high life. Settles instead telling her there are dangers in modeling. Making matters worse, Gus has left his photographic estate to Lou, and Iris is the executor. Being forced back into the chaos of Gus isn’t what she wants, memories of her childhood with her successful, often distant French mother consuming her as much as the abuses of her past, when she was so young and beautiful, a hot star on the rise. The drugs, the parties, the transgressions, but too there are memories of the intense bond, the passion between she and Gus. It had been amazing, for a time, where their love seemed ‘invincible’ until it soured, things moved too fast, she had to jump off that wild ride to survive, afraid of becoming something shameful.

Gus spent his entire life running away, towards something that was never enough, that took him further from Iris and Lou. But he was there in the beginning, for the rise of Iris as much a big part of her fall. Fellow models weren’t living with the easy luck, the shine that Iris was, the stark reality being girls disappeared, people took advantage, beauty wasn’t a deterrent to brutality, to the gritty streets. Beauty doesn’t keep you safe, in fact it seems to cry out for defilement. Money can be poisonous too. Power often leads to bottomless appetites, where better to feast than in the glamour and glitter of the modeling world?  Young girls and boys eager as a puppy to be something, someone, willing to do anything, and if not… so much the better.

Now a dangerous enemy has Iris in their sights. In order to give Lou everything Gus intended, the only real thing she will ever have of her father, Iris has to meet his conditions and retrieve the missing collection in Paris. If that’s not bad enough, she is being threatened with photos by a tabloid, a shameful past that haunts her. No longer the ingénue, it could well be that she has been underestimated, and it is time to confront the past, and strike back. No more can she allow anyone to take power away from her, not when she has her own beloved daughter to protect! It is through her love of Lou that she finds immeasurable strength to stop being a victim!

With the headlines of today, it’s not so shocking (isn’t that sad) that people abuse the young, knowing people will do anything for fame and those who won’t can be forced, manipulated by any means and those in power always have means, be sure of that. Iris was a natural, really good at what she did, loved it but couldn’t, wouldn’t accept the underbelly and more often than not that is the choice. Her own mother’s career, betrayals she stomached, sacrifices she made even hurting her own family, all the fair weather friends is ‘just the way the business goes’, life’s a jungle and it often comes to nothing, in the end. People (men and women) don’t talk about the things that happen to them in such industries, those in control know how to blackmail, you shut your mouth and take it if you hope to remain on top, or you leave quietly if you want to survive at all.

The images may be beautiful, but the reality isn’t a dream for most.

Publication Date: Out Tomorrow September 20, 2018

Fashion Sphinx Books
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I really enjoyed Wildchilds. The modeling industry that is the subject of the book is fascinating and at the same time very frightening. I enjoyed that the author takes the reader first to Iris’s current simple life in rural California and then starts introducing her former modeling life with flashbacks. It becomes very clear why Iris had to get away. Her teenage daughter, Lou, can’t understand her mother’s choices, and their conflicts are very relatable. In the end, the author concludes the story nicely (with enough room for interpretation) and Lou learns partially why Iris had to leave Paris.
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Wonderful memoir. Very entertaining and grabs hold of you from the beginning. Intense! Will be hard to put down.
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Thank you Netgalley and Fashion Sphinx Books for the ARC.

This book is heartbreakingly beautiful.
It starts in California, where single mom Iris, a former international fashion model, leads a quiet life as a sculptor in the peaceful countryside of La Arboleda. I'm immediately taken in by the place. The ranch, the sights and smells, the calm soothing natural environment. 
But all that's about to change. While Iris' priority is her sixteen year old daughter Lou, the girl's photographer father has other plans. A parcel of documents arrives, announcing Gustavo's death, leaving his estate to the daughter he has never met. Iris has to travel back to the life she left behind to sort out his archives.
The main part of this extraordinary story takes place in Paris. Through the eyes of the photographer and his muse, we dive deep into The Nineties fashionworld. The good, the bad and the ugly. Speaking from personal experience, I found this an accurate account of events. The story of Paris the artistic, creative, bohemian and authentic, as well as its dark underbelly. I couldn't put it down.
As Iris goes through the hundreds of photos, memories pop up, stories are told, nasty discoveries enter. 'La vie en rose' is not all that. She stumbles upon hidden folders full of images from The Red Room, the exclusive members only club. The scenes described make my heart skip a beat, although it's not a new discovery. Documentaries have been made about it years ago. But the writing is so exquisite, I'm hurting for the innocent girls and boys involved.
The love story between Iris and Gus is very moving, raw and believable. Theirs are real lives in a fake reality.
I enjoyed the fast pace of the Paris fashionworld, the excitement and adventure. The settings are wonderful,   past and present. There are well crafted joyous moments and melancholy minds. 
Eventually the book has a unexpected twist and the surviving woman turn the bad into good. 
Wildchilds is a strong story not to be ignored.
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In a time where women are fighting back against an industry that has forced them into silence for years, this book is a love song to the "me too" movement. 

An ex-model returns to Paris after the death of her boyfriend and finds herself swept up in the chaos that drove her from France, and her successful career. 
This book sheds light on the struggles women in this industry face everyday. Gives us a gimps into their not so glamorous lives. 

At times this book is very difficult to read, to believe that people can be so monstrous. 
The story in this book is timely. The message to fight back is important. Despite these two important points, I could not get into this book. 

The book simply did not grab me. And it should have, it was a good story. 
But I think it was the actual writing style and plot delivery that I could not get behind. This book has good bones, and in my opinion has the potential to be really good, but the rudimentary writing lost me. Having said that, it felt real, life can be choppy and raw, so while the writing was not my preferred style, I can not fault the author for writing a story that needs to be told.
It felt almost like when you are really mad at someone and you write them an email, and your writing is frantic as you try to get out all your feelings. And then you send it without reading it over. The writing may not flow in a pretty way, but it will still filled with emotion.
That was how I saw this book.

While this may not be the years next best seller, the message in this book is empowering and important.
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