A Stolen Little Black Dress: A Review of Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman
Hello fellow Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life. If you are new here, hello, my name is Hannah. Welcome aboard the journey into my bookcase.
Today, I want to talk about a book from my high school years. Published all the way back in 2014, we’re going to dive into Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman.
Full disclosure, I bought this book simply because Audrey Hepburn’s name was in the title. I am a huge Audrey Hepburn fan and have bought multiple books just because she was name-dropped. I swear, I don’t have a problem; it doesn’t happen all that often to be honest. But I distinctly remember picking this book up because of its title alone. I don’t think I actually read the synopsis until after I bought the book.
So let’s get into it. As always, a spoiler alert is in order. This book also requires a trigger and content warning. Being Audrey Hepburn has mentions of sexual assault, suicide, mental abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, and there are also some transphobic comments made at the end of the book that I will be talking about in this review. If you’re jumping ship, that’s ok, there are a lot of heavy topics in this book that one may not expect. If you’re leaving, I’ll see ya next week with a fun, light-hearted listicle.
Being Audrey Hepburn follows 19-year-old Lisbeth who is basically Audrey Hepburn’s number one fan. Seriously, this girl lives and breathes everything Audrey. So much so, that she builds an alter ego around Audrey’s persona…with a little help from the one and only Givenchy. You see, Lisbeth’s best friend, Jess, works part-time at the Met, and one night she invites Lisbeth to the museum to try on one of the most iconic little black dresses of all time.
After donning the famous dress from the opening of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, that no one is supposed to touch let alone wear, Jess’s boss makes a sudden appearance. To avoid being fired, Jess quickly sends our heroine out to the main floor of the museum where she’ll blend in nicely with the young one percenters who are there to party the night away for some charity or another.
Soon, Lisbeth finds herself leading a double life. The attendees of the gala? Yeah, they think she’s one of them. Her new best friend is pop royalty. She’s in a flirtationship with the heir to billionaire empire. She’s made the It Girl of Manhattan very angry with her sudden presence. And she’s doing all this with an Audrey Hepburn personation, the fashion genius that is Jess, and a name that’s not her own. There is nowhere else to go but up for Lisbeth and Jess, and soon the con is on. Our girls are making waves in the fashion community and taking names. But, how long can Lisbeth pretend to be someone she’s not?
It almost feels like this book was made for me. Audrey is mentioned on nearly every page. It’s grounded in reality, but the gorgeous gowns and fancy galas transport readers to a completely different world. It’s the type of fantastical that I adore AKA pretty, shiny things.
Despite not knowing exactly what this book was about when I first saw it, Being Audrey Hepburn quickly became a form of escapism for me. I’m never going to be a member of high society. I’ll never party at a charity event with rockstars and A-list celebrities. I won’t get to wear haute couture every other day even though I want to. I’m just an adult who still wants to play dress up.
Unfortunately, I’m not an actress. I don’t get to play pretend in a ballgown for hours on end for work. That’s where Lisbeth comes in. I’m quite removed from my teen years at this point of my life, but escaping harsh reality for a few hours still appeals to me. I mean, who doesn’t want to live a different life from time to time? Lisbeth is living the dream, and I’m living through her.
When I first read this book in 2014, I saw a lot of myself in Lisbeth. I still do to an extent. She’s a dreamer, responsible, people expect the best from her and only the best, and she’s supposed to have her whole life planned out at 19. She’s a young woman lost in the world who wants more than the shitty hand life has dealt her. That’s a type of character many people can get behind. She’s recognizable; readers know people like her, and given her origins, Lisbeth is someone readers can sympathize with and root for.
Her mom is a high functioning alcoholic who is lowkey abusive, her older sister is basically MIA all the time, and her little brother is a major terror. As a reader, I don’t fault her for jumping at the chance to pretend to be someone she’s not. Plus, she’s not technically doing anything that’s illegal. She and Jess never stole the Givenchy gown; it never left the Met. She’s not stealing anything from the people who don’t know her true tax bracket. She’s basically just networking to build her brand, while getting to enjoy being someone she’s not.
Sadly, this book’s charms have worn off for me. While I still relate with Lisbeth for wanting to be someone she’s not and running a blog, I can’t find escapism in it anymore. For one thing, the author must have never heard a teenager speak before. Even in 2014, the dialogue was dated. Lisbeth, Jess, and all the supporting young adult characters spoke as if it was still the mid-2000’s. The way they text really gave the author away. Despite the book taking place in then present day 2014, all texting must have been done on early-2000’s flip phones. Everything has aggressively been abbreviated.
Reading the book again in 2021, the language and dialogue are cringy at best. At its worst, it’s offensive. At the end of the book, right before everything is all said and done, our main character makes an offhanded transphobic remark. I admit, 2014 me never picked up on the comment. 2021 me did though.
It’s bad enough the remark is in the book. But the fact that it’s said by the main character makes me lose all respect I may have had for the character and the author. Transphobia is not a good look.
At one point, Being Audrey Hepburn offered me escapism into a life I’ve always wondered about. But all of this book’s charms evaporated in the blink of an eye all thanks to a singular comment. No amount of pretty gowns and fancy parties can make up for it. Being Audrey Hepburn no longer has a place on my bookcase. Nor is there room for anything else by Mitchell Kriegman.
With that, I must bid you all adieu. Like I said, I’ll see y’all next week with a fun listicle. Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask if you aren’t yet vaccinated, and read some good books for me.