Just so this is clear from the start, this book is getting four stars because it is is such a bananas story, a total clusterfuck and I am so glad it did not happen to me. The author deserves little sympathy, and I am not giving the stars away because she earned any with her sad little tale, but because this was seriously a "Holy shiiiiiit, how did you not see this coming, idiot!" For. Real.
The absolute craziness of the whole situation still baffles me, as does the author's complete lack of self-awareness. She has none. At all. What kind of friendship is it when one is paying for stuff all the time and other is just along for the ride? I mean, I get it, Anna offered to pay for more and more as the activities she suggested got increasingly expensive, but there were SO MANY red flags. I hope a future book is written about this entire situation by an outsider, so we get a much broader picture. Obviously in only getting the author's perspective, there is so much we do not know about Anna. And given the fact that Anna is such a proven liar, she is going to continue to lie, and you can't trust something entirely from her perspective either. And maybe an independent account could never happen, but it would be nice to be outside of the author's innocent little bubble where, golly gee she didn't know anything was wrong. *eyeroll*.
To be clear a second time, Anna Sorokin is 100% the villain. She defrauded people and banks, and seems to have no remorse for doing so. But in that statement, she is being truthful about who she is. The same can not be said for the author. She presents herself as this naive, kind-hearted 20-something in the city who became friends with this enigmatic young woman and was swindled out of over $60K. Yeah, except no honey. No.
The narrator is as unsympathetic as the fake heiress and even though I do not doubt the fear and depression, and anxiety were genuine, those emotions and feelings meant nothing in the end because the author did not learn ONE GOD DAMN THING. She remains the same vain and shallow social-climber she was when she and Anna latched onto one another, and she learned nothing from the experience. Like I said earlier, there is ZERO self-awareness on the part of the author.
Even if Anna had not be a grifter who defrauded those around her, she was still not a nice person. The author mentioned many times how rude and bratty Anna was, calling people peasants and such. Anna was also supposedly so rude to ride-share drivers that the author remarked how it was kind of a toss-up as to whether anyone would actually pick Anna up when she requested one. Yet this is the person who the nice and sweet and innocent author wanted to attach herself to, wanted to be BFFs with. Sure, okay. Williams is such a good friend and just cares about Anna so much that she puts up with the 'behavior' and remains friends with her despite the fact that Anna is not particularly likable - but she is loaded, or so everyone thinks, and there is the key to it all.
I am not saying that Williams went into the friendship with the goal of getting a ton of free shit out of it. That in itself would be a bit sociopathic. But there is a certain thrill to get into that club, be seen at that restaurant, work out with that trainer, relax and be pampered at that spa, etc. To see and be seen. To be popular. I think most people at one point in their life or another would find the world Williams found herself in very thrilling. Every day was an adventure, what would they do next? And, she was all too happy to let Anna pay for it as their little adventures grew bigger and bigger - to the point where their Moroccan vacation cost Williams $62,000+, with the belief that Anna would pay her back.
Let's pause right here and examine this horrendously obvious amount of privilege and the fact that the author, again, has no self-awareness. Like, seriously girl, you thought nothing truly of having the ability to hand over a card that had a credit line more than fully capable of covering such an expense. This is not to say that Williams did not have misgivings about the transaction itself, she did. But the part she gives no thought to is the fact that she even has the ability to do so in the first place. And then you still have the audacity to be upset when you are freaking out and AmEx is saying they can't do anything about the charges because you HANDED OVER YOUR CARD AND SIGNED FOR THE CHARGES?! Seriously, they had no reason to believe the story that Williams was giving them, and any average joe in this situation would be paying off that money for YEARS TO COME - wages garnished, taken to court, everything. But because of the bubble that Williams lived in, with a job at Vanity Fair* (that I have no idea how she kept, back to this in a second) and people who can help her connect to others, she managed to walk away from the whole thing debt-free. And given the publicity surrounding the case and her exposé for the magazine, I am not at all surprised that AmEx dropped all the charges from her account. How could they not?
While I am on a tangent, let's look at this job thing. So at one point Williams allows Anna to charge about $16K to her WORK CREDIT CARD. Vanity Fair picked up the tab for some things clearly not work-related, and this just went unnoticed by accounting? No one from that department and HR got together to sit Williams down for a chat about THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS WORTH OF CHARGES TO THE COMPANY CARD???!!! MORE PRIVILEGE, RIGHT THIS WAY.
I can't even.
Okay, back to Anna being a terrible person and Williams being okay with it, because she wanted to be in that circle that Anna seemed to glide through so gracefully. That's pretty much the gist. Williams saw what she wanted to see, ignored major red flags, and ending up scammed out of a ton of money. But she benefited from the scam for a looooooooooooooooong time. She got into all those trendy places because of Anna, and was content letting Anna foot the bill for a long time, until Anna no longer could move things around to keep up the appearance of being loaded.
By the end Williams is about as insufferable as Anna. She was very upset that Anna ended up being found not guilty on the charges related directly to her case and I did have to laugh a little. What reason did she have to be upset? Not only did she still have a job, and she was not on the hook for the huge AmEx bill, but she was able to jump from one privilege to the next; first in her "friendship" with Anna, then from there to a book deal and a show coming from either HBO or Netflix (I can't remember nor can I be bothered to look it up right now), PLUS NO DEBT. I can't possibly be the only one who thinks it is kind of unfair that she didn't have to pay back anything, can I? The card was not stolen from her, she willingly used it when Anna said she would pay her back. And if Anna was found not guilty on those counts involving Williams, that is kind of a sign to me right there that it was her own damn fault.
I realize I sound kind of heartless. I remember how stressful it can get when owning money on credit cards and not having a way to pay down that debt in a way that won't simply accrue more debt. I can't imagine owing $70K and not knowing how to pay for it. But even with this looming, Williams never really gives that a whole lot of thought. It comes across as though she is banking on the fact that AmEx will waive the charges, and that's exactly what happens. Even so, I would never wish that stress and anxiety on anyone, because it is one of the worst feelings in the world.
More than anything, I want to know about Anna. As the book is told from the perspective of her victim, we know very little about the real person behind the German heiress persona. To see details of her crimes in the final pages was truly astounding. Like, how does someone even come up with a plan like this? And then go around convincing everyone you are who you say you are, you have the funds, and just keep hopping from bank to bank? How does that even happen in the 21st century? I want to know so much more about Anna and I hope in the future an independent writer can take this story, flesh it out, and give readers the full picture.
The writing is not stellar, but if you are looking for quick read that will leave your jaw agape time and time again at the sheer madness of it all, then this is the book for you.