Publication date: 28 May 2020 (ePub), 17 September 2020 (paperback)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Scarlett is far from perfect.
She changes herself to please others.
She makes mistakes – over and over again.
She repeatedly goes back to people that have hurt her.
Scarlet has a tricky relationship with her mother and is desperate for people to like her.
She moves to London without a plan, but when she manages to land a job at a modelling agency she things that her life is finally on track.
Scarlett soon discovers that the fashion industry is far from what she had imagined and her life begins to spiral out of control. But at least people know who she is. She is starting to become someone.
And surely it’s better to be someone – even if it’s someone you hate?
I would first like to say a big congratulations to the author on the paperback publication of her first novel, The High Moments.
I must admit that I’m finding it hard to describe this book, although I can say that I flew through it over one weekend. It’s fast paced, energetic and strangely compelling.
The story follows small-town girl Scarlett as she starts working for a London modelling agency. It explores the sordid side of the industry – alcohol, drugs, sex, parties and back stabbing. It’s sordid, salacious and utterly addictive!
The protagonist, Scarlett, is a pretty unlikeable character. She’s naive and easily-manipulated, which could evoke some sympathy, yet she is also self-absorbed, pretentious and somewhat lacking in morals. She’s just not a very nice person. She is the type of girl that values Instagram ‘likes’ over real friendship, needing the validation of strangers to prove that she is Someone.
Her “friends” and colleagues are just as bad – hedonistic, entitled, selfish and back-stabbing – making up a motley supporting cast of characters. There is a toxic element to all of Scarlett’s relationships, most of which she is fully aware of and yet she still pursues those friendships over anything more real and meaningful.
With a dark thread of humour running though the book, it is fascinating to witness Scarlett’s descent into the cut-throat and contrived world that is London modelling scene. As someone young and inexperienced, suddenly finding herself in a glamorous world of models, celebrities, drugs and parties, she ignores any advice to keep her head down and focus on doing a good job. She is overwhelmed by the idea of this instagramable life, the party-girl lifestyle and her new famous friends, sometimes forgetting that she is really only on the periphery of that world. She is not Someone to them, she is dispensable. She is someone that can be used and discarded at whim, and for a person who needs validation as much as Scarlett, that is not a good position to be in. As Scarlett’s life spirals more and more out of control as the reader witnesses bad choice after bad choice. I may not want a friend like Scarlett but I did start to experience some sympathy with her and hoped she would find her way out of the self-destructive path she was leading.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s shocking, crude, unsavoury and rather dark in some places. It’s also emotional, relevant and great fun. I loved experiencing a glimpse into the world of modelling. I understand that Ozbek has a background in fashion and I assume that adds an element of authenticity to the story, although I rather hope that a lot of artistic licence has been applied and that this industry and lifestyle are something of fiction rather than reality!! Honestly, Scarlett’s life is a thing of nightmares to me.
The High Moments is a must-read for people obsessed with social media and for those who think that internet fame is something to aspire to. It’s a healthy reminder to focus on reality and not illusion – it’s the life and people in front of you that matter, not the unrealistic mirage displayed via your mobile phone!
Thanks to Simon & Schuster UK for providing me with a copy of the book for review purposes and, once again, a huge congratulations to Sara-Ella Ozbek on this great debut. I’m intrigued to see what she comes up with next…
About the Author
Sara-Ella Ozbek is a London based writer. Her debut novel The High Moments was recently published by Simon & Schuster and is currently being developed for television by Makeready Productions and Chapter One. Her second novel is set for release with the same publisher next year.
Aside from her novels, Sara-Ella is developing a production for The Young Vic theatre alongside composer Richard Thomas, and a feature film for Standalone Pictures, produced by Charles Finch. She has written non-fiction for titles including The Independent, Tatler, Because Magazine, Suitcase, Drugstore Culture, Voyage D’Etudes and Soho House Notes, covering stories on fashion, travel, culture and – when she’s allowed to – feminism.
Previously, she worked in the fashion industry.