Published: June 2020
Published by: St. Martin’s Griffin
Format Read: eBook, ARC, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction
NOTE: I was sent a copy of Susie Orman Schnall’s We Came Here to Shine, from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
At the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, two ambitious young women—a down-on-her-luck actress and an aspiring journalist—form an unlikely friendship as they navigate a world of possibility and find out what they are truly made of during a glorious summer of spectacle and potential…Source: Goodreads
Gorgeous Vivi is about to begin filming her first starring role in a Hollywood picture when the studio head ships her off to New York as a favor to a friend. She’s assigned the leading role in the heralded Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular at the World’s Fair, a fate she believes will destroy her film career. If she performs well, she’ll have another chance at stardom, but with everything working against her, will her summer lead to opportunity or failure?
Plucky Max dreams of becoming a serious journalist, but when her job at the New York Times doesn’t pan out, she finds herself begrudgingly working for the daily paper of the World’s Fair. As her ideas are continually overlooked by her male counterparts and her career prospects are put in jeopardy, Max must risk everything to change the course of her life.
When Max and Vivi’s worlds collide, they forge an enduring friendship. One that teaches them to go after what matters most during the most meaningful summer of their lives.
The 1939 World’s Fair was held in New York City and what a spectacle it was! When the grand plans for two young women fall through, they both find themselves reluctantly immersed in the festivities. Max, a N.Y.U, journalism student, lost out on her dream internship and is assigned to work at the fair newspaper. Meanwhile Vivi, a budding Hollywood starlet is passed over for a leading role in a film and is sent to New York City to preform in the Aquacade production. We Came Here to Shine explores sexism in the publication and show businesses. Both women struggle to advance their careers that are being ruled by the iron fists of their male superiors.
The theme for the fair was “The World of Tomorrow”, which is the perfect fit for the theme of the novel, as both Max and Vivi were working towards their future careers and successes.
The descriptions of the exhibits, attractions and concessionaires made me wish I could have experienced the fair myself. And the Aquacade show alone sounded spectacular! The newspaper articles at the end of Max’s chapters helped to assist in the world building and describe the state of the world (America specifically) as it hovers between the Great Depression and World War II.
We Came Here to Shine hooked me immediately and I really enjoyed a behind the scenes look at the two industries. I also cheered our heroines along as they stood up for themselves. However, I found some inconsistencies in the writing tense. The individual chapters felt more strong to me than those that followed both Max and Vivi at the same time. I also felt that too much foreshadowing was used, which in turn slightly dulled those moments for me when they were revealed.
Aside from the minor points I mentioned above, We Came Here to Shine tells an important story of women’s equality and friendship. I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy the historical fiction genre.