Honestly, I’m so glad I gave this book a chance. I love stories where a character experiences revelations that force them to recalibrate their picture of the world, and Anna’s strange summer of discontent does exactly that. Better, I like the fact that this book has the possibility of reorienting the world for the reader. I didn’t love the cover or the blurb, but I did enjoy the read.
She was looking for a place to land.
Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood, and she’s had it with her life at home. So Anna “borrows” her stepmom’s credit card an runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister takes her in. But LA isn’t quite the glamorous escape Anna had imagined.
As Anna spends her days on TV and movie sets, she engrosses herself in a project researching the murderous Manson girls—and although the violence in her own life isn’t the kind that leaves physical scars, she begins to notice the parallels between herself and the lost girls of LA, and of America, past and present.
In Anna’s singular voice, we glimpse not only a picture of life on the B-list in LA, but also a clear-eyed reflection on being young, vulnerable, lost, and female in America—in short, on the B-list of life. Alison Umminger writes about girls, sex, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn’t, in a way not often seen in YA fiction.
Anna is easy to connect with, and she feels genuine. She is confused and a little angry at the people who are suppose to be her support system, and I think many YA readers will find that feels familiar. She spends a lot of time thinking about what motivates people, and she comes to some big conclusions about how the choices we make have a bigger impact than the choices that are made for us. (You are responsible for being more than just the things that happen to you). I loved the fact that The Great Gatsby came up because there is a true sense of careless, superficial, and wasteland about the LA that Anna experiences. Anna is a bit of a Nick, herself, though her judgements are a little less delighted voyer than his. The Manson girls, too, are part of the story, but not in the way I expected – much less sensationalized and an integral part of the story. I did find some of the characters a bit awful (personality-wise), and I did think some of the plot points were a little strange, but I believed they were likely to be real in the land of celebrity. If anything, it does play to the stereotypes of the ugly world behind the curtain that regular folks like me love to believe. Overall, I think this is an engaging read with a strong message that doesn’t come on too strong. The language and situations are going to be more appropriate for a mature high school reader.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.