Happy Thursday, guys!
We have a couple of reviews on deck for today! First up is the novella Map to the Stars, which released on Tuesday.
It's a traditional meet-cute of a young girl who happens to meet one of the hottest actors in the world, but Jen Malone's insights into Hollywood, and her life lessons, make this both a fun and thoughtful read for summer!
Ebook, 242 pages
Published July 14th 2015 by Epic Reads Impulse
The California dream was supposed to give seventeen-year-old Annie Shelton a fresh start far removed from her dad’s unusual betrayal. But when things don’t go according to plan in La La Land, Annie’s mom snags a last-minute gig as makeup artist to a teen movie idol and finagles a spot for her daughter on his European promotional tour.
Down-to-earth Annie would rather fangirl architectural sights than an arrogant A-lister. That is, until behind-the-scenes Graham Cabot turns out to be more sweetly vulnerable than she could have imagined.
Too bad falling for a poster boy isn’t all red carpets and star treatment, especially when you factor in obnoxious fans, an overprotective assistant, a stage mom/manager, and a beefy bodyguard.
But it isn’t until the paparazzi make an appearance that things get really sticky…
Jen Malone introduces us to Annie, who moves to LA with her makeup artist mother and quickly lands on a tour for one of the hottest teen celebrities in the world. While Annie and Graham Cabot initially aren't sure to make of one another, they soon fall for each other. However, it's always challenge when you're dating someone who so throughly belongs to the public eye, and Annie and Graham soon faces challenges that they aren't sure that they can overcome....
While the set-up for Map to the Stars will likely sound familiar: opinionated girl meets movie star boy; challenges him with her different (and down-to-earth!) world views, it's Malone's characterizations and gentle probing of deeper issues that help set the novella apart.
Readers learn early on that Annie isn't perfect. She's stubborn and angry, and is also a strong advocate of running away from her family problems, rather than working on them. So when she meets Graham, she's understandably wary, as is he.
Graham also isn't a stereotypical celebrity - he's surprisingly brusque when he first meets Annie, and we also see how being micromanaged by managers, agents and a stage mom his entire life, have made him hungry for normal human affection, as evidenced his attraction to Annie.
So it's hardly surprising when they fall for each other. Malone does a nice job of showing how the mutual affection isn't just based on proximity or homones, but by a genuine understanding of what the two of them are mutually going through. They both understand what it means to put up public facades to hide public stress, even though it's not necessary on the same level. Annie's struggled to hide a family secret, while Graham physically has to hide himself even in plain sight, simply to get some normalcy.
While the actual romance is very teenaged-esque, it's Malone's handling of the inevitable obstacles of the romance that make Annie and Graham's relationship memorable. The two teens are both asked to compromise their personal integrity for the sake of Graham's career, and their eventual handling of those situations will make this novella a thoughtful and a memorable one.
Also, as someone who always advocate for more of a parental presence in books, I love the fact that Annie's mom has a consistent and three-dimensional role of her own throughout the novella. We see her struggles, but we also see how she continues to struggle for both herself, and her family. It's a nice nod to personal empowerment, and makes the novella all the more worth it.
Malone asks meaningful questions on privacy and life in the public eye, and how public figures are often asked to compromise their personal integrity to stay on top. It's a very honest look at the cult of personality, while also providing plenty of food for thought for younger and older readers alike.
All in all, Map to the Stars is the perfect amount of breezy fun for the summer, intermixed with thoughtful themes that will make readers think harder. Strongly recommend for contemporary fans.
About the author:
Jen Malone once spent a year traveling the world solo, met her husband on the highway (literally), and went into labor with her identical twins while on Stevie Nick's tour bus. These days she saves the drama for her books. She is a former Hollywood film publicist and current college professor who lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children and (someday, when she wears her husband down) a pet hedgehog. She is also the author of the upcoming WANDERLOST. You can learn more about Jen and her books at www.jenmalonewrites.com.