I received a copy from Netgalley.
Quite possibly one of the best books I have read this year, certainly one of the most memorable. It’s dark, gritty and uncomfortable, raw and unflinching and I loved it. I loved it so much I bought a hard cover copy when I saw one in WH Smiths YA section last week.
The novel tell the story of fifteen year old Anna, who’s struggling at home and as a result runs away from her problems to spend the summer with her older sister Delia who lives in LA and works as an actress. Anna thinks it will be a fun break from her problems. Not so much. It takes the reader into the gritty reality of Hollywood, how obsessed with looks and stupid things the glamorous are, how far those trying to make it big are willing to go to achieve their desires. The reality behind uber-famous teen pop stars/actresses.
I loved Anna’s tone and connected with her right away, she comes across immediately as the quintessential grumpy “I hate everything and the world hates me” moody teenager. Her voice is so unbelievably authentic, delightfully snarky and quite cutting. I loved her immediately. Her parents are divorced, Dad’s run off with a much younger woman and her mom has decided she’s going to be a lesbian and has a new partner and she and the new hippie-like partner have a new baby and since this other woman, Lynette has moved in Anna has a whole new set of circumstances, new rules and changes to get used to. (Though to be fair, Anna’s mom is a bit of a self-involved nightmare, though while Lynette has some odd ideas, she’s the stronger of the two and seems quite reasonable, but Anna of course refuses to see any of that). So she steals Lynette’s credit card and runs off to find refuge with her older sister Delia in LA.
Delia is less than enthused to have Anna stay, but grudgingly agrees. Delia is not particularly a famous actress yet, she has a job working on a zombie movie. You get the impression Delia is pretty much willing to do whatever it takes to survive. She has a nice official boyfriend, Dex, a screenwriter who works on a kid’s TV show about two twin boys (who are supposed to be 15 or so and played by actors much much older of course) and their butler who sail around solving mysteries. (Dex’s job sounds pretty awful but more on that later). But Delia is also seeing her former boyfriend Roger, who’s directing a gritty movie about lost girls in Los Angeles. Delia doesn’t want to leave Anna alone so Anna comes with her to the set of Roger’s lost girls movie. Roger is a jerk and a bit of a creep as well. Anna winds up getting involved in researching the infamous Manson murders to study the girls who got involved and were responsible. Anna is uncomfortable but agrees as Roger will pay her for the research.
Anna delves into the research. It becomes increasingly unnerving as she starts noticing parallels between how things really are in LA and the girls who became involved in the Manson cult. It’s dark and uncomfortable, but in a weird way morbidly fascinating. The author does a brilliant job of conveying the research and the people involved and Anna’s own uneasiness and feelings towards it. In no way whatsoever does the author glamorize or condone what happened. It’s unflinching and brutal, but as I said, weirdly fascinating too.
Anna learns quickly Delia’s life isn’t so glamerous. She’s flirting with Roger, working in his creepy film. And seeing Dex without telling him about Roger and Anna’s watching it all from the sidelines. Yet, when she tries to point this out or argue about it, it always seems to come back on her for doing something wrong. There’s more drama with Anna’s mother who turns out to be pretty damn horrible to Anna (even though Anna technically hasn’t done anything that wrong) She knows she did wrong and she’s willing to work to pay back the money and it’s agreed she can stay with Delia for the summer to do that.
The other storyline deals with Anna going to the TV show set with Dex where she meets the actor twins, and starts becoming friends with them, there’s hints of a potential romance to come which thankfully doesn’t become Anna’s soul focus. It’s more of an afterthought as Anna is a realist. There’s a lot of Anna’s inner monologue as she worries about what happens when she goes home and the upcoming changes. Added drama when Delia has a stalker and things get scary, more drama with the twin’s godawful older sister, a famous actress/singer and how she’s nowhere near as nice and sweet as the tv and magazines make her out to be. Some harsh truth’s when one of the twin’s helps Anna meet her favourite band. And even more drama when the Roger/Dex thing reach’s it conclusion.
A brilliantly written novel, though at times very very uncomfortable to read. The characters are so real and authentically believable, even though it’s a hard subject matter to stomach in parts and does get dark and twisty, it’s very very good and I loved it.
Huge thanks to Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for approving my request to view the title.