Sunday, July 24, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: “Trying To Float: Coming of Age in the Chelsea Hotel” By Nicolaia Rips

From the inside book jacket:

Part Eloise, part The Grand Budapest Hotel, part early David Sedaris, a seventeen-year-old's darkly funny, bighearted memoir about growing up in a legendary New York City hotel.

New York's Chelsea Hotel may no longer be home to its most famous denizens...but the eccentric spirit of the Chelsea is alive and well. Meet the family Rips: father Michael, a lawyer turned writer with a penchant for fine tailoring; mother Sheila, a former model and renowned artist who matches her welding outfits with couture; and daughter Nicolaia, a precocious high school senior working on a record of her peculiar seventeen years.

Nicolaia is a perpetual outsider who has struggled to find her place in schools populated by cliquish girls and loudmouthed boys. But at the Chelsea, Nicolaia need not look far to find her tribe. The kids at school might never understand her, but as Nicolaia endeavors to fit in, she begins to understand that the Chelsea's motley crew could hold the key to surviving the perils of a Manhattan childhood.

I work in a library, and when I saw Trying to Float by Nicolaia Rips on the shelf with the rest of our new releases, its cover adorned with adorable young photos of the author, I couldn't help but pick it up. Then I read the synopsis on the inside of the book jacket and it was so bizarre – and yet so terribly interesting – that I just knew I had to read this book! Believe me when I say that I am so glad I did.

Nicolaia Rips is the only child of two very unconventional, creatively-minded parents; father Michael is a lawyer-turned-writer, and mother, Sheila, is a former model and celebrated artist. Her first real friends are the equally unconventional fellow residents of the Hotel Chelsea, which includes Artie, proprietor of New York's most famous nightclubs, and the androgynous Storme', who keeps a pink handgun strapped to her ankle. As early as preschool Nicolaia struggles to fit in and make friends; a near-tragedy involving Nicolaia during a birthday party in kindergarten earns her a reputation that follows her straight through junior high school and doesn't make it any easier for her classmates understand her. Her entire student career is a myriad of misunderstanding and struggle until that last day of junior high when, at last, it all starts to make sense.

What makes this book a triumph for me is a combination of things. First off, the author – despite being just seventeen – has a writing style that hooks the reader's interest from the first sentence until the very last one. Her witty tone and self-depreciation, combined with the particular selection of anecdotes that she chose to share (one can't help but wonder what ended up being left out) makes this one memoir that no reader should miss out on! What's more, the essential theme of this book is acceptance – a child looking for acceptance from her parents, her teachers, her peers – and that is something that anyone is able to relate to, no matter where you grew up.

Trying to Float: Coming of Age in the Chelsea Hotel by Nicolaia Rips is available on Amazon.

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