Synopses & Reviews
As addictive, decadent and delicious as chocolate itself
Set in 1980s Chicago and on the East Coast, this electric debut chronicles the relationship between an impossibly rich chocolate heiress, Babs Ballentyne, and her sensitive and bookish young daughter, Bettina. Babs plays by no one’s rules: naked Christmas cards, lavish theme parties with lewd installations at her Lake Shore Drive penthouse, nocturnal visits from her married lover, who “admires her centerfold” while his wife sleeps at their nearby home.
Bettina wants nothing more than to win her mother’s affection and approval, both of which prove elusive. When she escapes to an elite New Hampshire prep school, Bettina finds that her unorthodox upbringing makes it difficult to fit in with her peers, one of whom happens to be the son of Babs’s lover. As she struggles to forge an identity apart from her mother, Bettina walks a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction.
As funny as it is scandalous, The Chocolate Money is Mommie Dearest, Prep, and 50 Shades of Gray all rolled into one compulsively readable book.
"This is the story of Bettina Ballentyne, only child of the terrible Babs, heiress to a massive chocolate fortune. A precocious 10-year-old when we meet her, Bettina's a careful student of her mother, following her rules (Babs 'refuses to have a fat daughter,' so Bettina never eats the family chocolate), noting her etiquette reminders (a man who can't afford to buy his mistress really good jewels should stick to flowers), and memorizing her sex tips (the proper terminology for oral sex, Babs advises, is 'admiring the centerfold'). In later sections, 15-year-old Bettina's at prep school, where she undergoes the usual harassment by mean girls, discovers a taste for rough sex, and realizes that her roommate's boyfriend is the son of her mother's lover, a man Bettina nursed a crush on. Things end predictably badly, and for all the book's desire to shock (there's a lot of sex and sex talk, and Babs is a bad mother on an epic scale) it never quite does. Babs is too cartoonish, Bettina too blasÃ©, and the writing too stilted (a problem made worse by the lack of contractions in speech) for us to care much, sex scenes notwithstanding. Agent: Bill Clegg, WME Entertainment. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Darkly funny...compulsively readable..." --People "A novel to make you laugh, cringe, and appreciate your mother." --O, the Oprah Magazine
"Debut author Norton, the great-great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller, writes fearlessly, and the results are compelling. Reading this novel is like watching a train speed toward you, and youre paralyzed on the tracks
“Despite the sweet title, this debut novel by Ashley Prentice Norton is a dark tale of maternal sadism, twisted sex, and self-destruction. Norton is a fearless writer.”
— James Frey, author of Bright Shiny Morning
"I am not a reader easily shocked, and I was shocked by the brave twists and daring turns of Ashley Norton's compulsively readable The Chocolate Money. This story of a girl coming of age in Chicago, heir to a chocolate fortune and all the spoils and hungers that fortune sparks, is fearless and utterly unputdownable."
— Jennifer Gilmore, author of Something Red and Golden Country
"Not since Mommy Dearest has there been a transcription of a complex mother-daughter relationship as powerful. I rooted with all my heart for this girl. Ashley Prentice Nortons writing is so gripping, vivid, and moving — so realistically drawn — it leaves even the most well-adjusted reader with the chilling knowledge of what its like to be raised by wolves. The Chocolate Money is devastating and unforgettable."
— Isabel Gillies, author of Happens Every Day and A Year and Six Seconds
"The Chocolate Money is the perfect page-turner, offering a window into the life of the richer-than-rich, complete with scandalous sex, wild parties, a snobby prep school, and a tyrannical train-wreck of a mother. But it's also something more—its a perceptive portrait of a young woman growing past the world that shaped her. Norton writes with empathy and wisdom about mothers and daughters, and the pain of loving a parent you must escape."
-- Jill A. Davis, author of Ask Again Later
“This is the darkest comedy I've ever read, overflowing with unflinching observations of the elite that are both laugh-out-loud and heart-wrenchingly poignant, all woven with the searing wit of a truly gifted new voice in fiction.”
—Jill Kargman, author of Wolves in Chic Clothing
An Amazon Best Book of the Year So Far
A New York Post Best Novel to Read This Summer
An Us Weekly Hot Summer Novel
One of O, The Oprah Magazine's 10 Titles to Pick Up Now
A USA Today New and Noteworthy Book
One of Vulture's 8 Books You Need to Read This May
One of the New York Daily News's 10 Books for Your Summer Reading List
An Indie Next Pick
“Walker’s first novel leaves chick lit in the pixie dust, treading the rougher terrain of radical critique and shadowy conspiracies—territory closer to Rachel Kushner than Helen Fielding.” — New York, One of Vulture's “8 Books You Need to Read This May”
“If Amy Schumer turned her subversive feminist sketches into a novel, dark on the inside but coated with a glossy, palatable sheen, it would probably look a lot like Dietland—a thrilling, incendiary manifesto disguised as a beach read . . . It’s a giddy revenge fantasy that will shake up your thinking and burrow under your skin, no matter its size.” — Entertainment Weekly (
The story of the daughter of a glamorous chocolate heiress who must navigate a complex landscape of wealth, sex, and decadence through a privileged childhood in Chicago and an East Coast prep school, with only her narcissistic mother to guide her.
Bettina Ballentyne is a chocolate heiress only by name; it is her glamorous and narcissistic mother, Babs, who lives up to the billing and plays by no ones rules. Navigating a simultaneously treacherous and alluring landscape of wealth, sex, and decadence—first in her privileged childhood in Chicago and later at a top-tier east coast boarding school—Bettina must figure out how to reconcile her yearning for maternal affection with her mothers take-no-prisoners-style parenting.
Ashley Prentice Nortons unflinching eye and acerbic wit capture Bettinas coming of age with the perfect mixture of tragic and comic. Simultaneously sassy, deeply twisted, and uproariously funny, the novels sharp and sparkly humor will have you laughing during its darkest moments. A mesmerizing portrayal of the corrosive effects of an American fortune, The Chocolate Money is a shocking and intensely readable debut.
A fresh and provocative debut novel about a reclusive young woman saving up for weight loss surgery when she gets drawn into a shadowy feminist guerilla group called "Jennifer"—equal parts Bridget Jones's Diary and Fight Club
An Amazon Best Book of the Year So Far
A New York Post “Best Novel to Read This Summer”
An Us Weekly “Hot Summer Novel”
O, The Oprah Magazine, "10 Titles to Pick Up Now"
A USA Today “New and Noteworthy” book
One of Vulture's "8 Books You Need to Read This May"
An Indie Next Pick
"Witty and wise."—People
"A giddy revenge fantasy that will shake up your thinking and burrow under your skin, no matter its size."—Entertainment Weekly (
About the Author
SARAI WALKER received her M.F.A. in creative writing from Bennington College. As a magazine writer, she had articles appear in national publications, including Seventeen and Mademoiselle. She subsequently served as an editor and writer for Our Bodies, Ourselves before moving to London and Paris to complete a Ph.D. She currently lives in the New York City area. Dietland is her first novel.