The Chocolate Money

Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

7 of 17
The Chocolate Money
288 pages; Mariner
Bettina Ballentyne feels like a "match that just won't strike" compared with her mother, a Grace Kelly look-alike and chocolate-fortune heiress who flaunts her affair with a married man, throws parties with themes like "hangover-brunch cruise," and once posed nude for the family Christmas card. Bettina, the adolescent narrator of Ashley Prentice Norton's darkly comic novel, The Chocolate Money, portrays her mother in sardonic terms—"Babs makes up her mind about people and doesn't allow for upgrades"—meant to mask a deep loneliness. At 15, Bettina enrolls in boarding school, where she goes on a self-destructive spree, drinking, having sex, and eventually doing the one thing she knows will get her mother's attention, however briefly. Norton's prose, laced with sarcastic humor, also reveals Bettina's bitter desolation and her need to be noticed and loved—by Babs, or anyone at all.
— A.W.