True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet by Lola Douglas
The Plot: You know the teen actresses who are size 0 and complain about clothes being too big? Who somehow get into all those clubs even tho they are SO underage? Who live that wild and crazy life?
You've just met Morgan Carter, acting for over half her life, the main financial support of her mother. You've seen her and envied her glam life.
The envy stopped just around the time she almost OD'ed and then spent six months in rehab. Her manager isn't sure what to do; Morgan loves acting and wants to go home. Nope, says Sam. His idea? She should take it easy for a year, away from temptation, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Pretend to be some regular plain jane girl, named Claudia Miller. And once her year in Typical High School is over, reveal all and have the Best. Comeback. Ever.
The Perfect Plan... can Morgan play this role of a lifetime?
The Good: Any pop culture junkie, like moi, will adore this fictional "behind the scenes" look at a Teen Queen trapped in Suburbia.
Part of the reason no-one recognizes Morgan/Claudia is she dies her hair brown. Wears glasses. Buys her clothes in Target. And in the months of rehab, Morgan started eating normally so has gone up quite a few sizes.
Part of this book is dream fulfillment, both bad (I'd like to see Lindsay Lohan try to live on $500 for clothes!) and good (imagine being famous girl.) But this is more than an escapist, "what would it be like to be her" book.
Morgan is trying out being a new person; doing things she normally wouldn't, like, you know, study. We laugh with Morgan, rather than at her. And Morgan is funny. But this is more than a fish out of water story; it's about reinvention and starting over. Morgan has problems with her mother, and an absentee father; she has a best friend who sometimes says stupid things. Doesn't that describe a lot of teenage girls?
It would be easy, very very easy, to mock Morgan. There's a painful moment when Morgan, as Claudia, hears teen girls tear her (Morgan) apart. And she has to sit there and take it, because she's Claudia, and the girls heap on the abuse, because hey, Morgan isn't real.
Our weird cult of celebrity... but, we say, they get paid millions. They travel, buy anything they want, eat great food, hang out with awesome people. So what if we say they're too fat, or too skinny? Too slutty, too trendy? Douglas is sympathetic to Morgan and the other teen queens; sympathetic to what they're living thru, what they've missed out on, and even sympathetic to their ambitions. Because while yes, Morgan has been acting since forever; and yes, Morgan realizes that the fast times were no good; Morgan likes acting. She wants to have a career. She just needs to figure out how to have a healthy life and a healthy career.
Other links: An article mentioning Lola. An interview with Lola. And yes, there is a sequel.
It was a decent book. It surprised me because it was better than I expected it to be. I have low expectactions for any and all books, movies, or shows about hidden identities because they tend to be predictable: towards at the end of the story, the true identity will be revealed, arguments will be had, tears will be shed - but then, gee, everything will be okay because the girl still gets the boy and everyone is still friends! I then shake my head at the implausibility of it all and start ranting. I value honesty so highly that I just get mad at stories based around lies. Can you tell?! ;-)
Amazing Grace by Megan Shull has been the best attempt at the "de-celebrity" storyline, in my opinion, because it was plausible and realistic without ever relying on modern-day tidbits and namedropping to make it interesting. It was just the story of a girl who wanted out of the spotlight and needed a normal life. Not only did it have that plotline going for it, but the writing was stellar.
I just put Amazing Grace on hold.
The stories I get mad at are the "it's better to be poor" ones, like the movie Jersey Girl. Where the rich/ well off person realizes they are a better person while they're being blue collar, working stiffs. And it bothers me more in movies, where it's rich people selling this "be content with your little lives, being rich ain't so great, I'm going to summer in Italy" BS. Authors I know aren't rich (usually) so in books, like this, I don't mind it.
I think part of the rason it worked here is that Morgan herself is trying to figure out her life, so it's hard to see her as being deceitful in a mean way.
Yay for Amazing Grace. Let me know what you think.
What I liked about Morgan was that she was and wasn't THE stereotype - that she wasn't all goodness nor all darkness - that she had shades of gray and things that made her empathetic.
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