Friday, November 7, 2014
Review: Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle
Review: Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle
Release date: October 21st, 2014
Publisher: Poppy (Little, Brown)
Series: Yes, #1 in the Famous in Love trilogy
Length: ARC from BEA14
Rating: I don't really understand the point of this book.
The romantic story of a girl who gets plucked from obscurity to star in the next major feature film franchise based on a book and the ensuing love triangles she gets entangled in on—-and off screen.
Meet Paige Townsen, Rainer Devon, and Jordan Wilder…
When Paige Townsen, a young unknown, gets cast in the movie adaptation of a blockbuster book series, her life changes practically overnight. Within a month, Paige has traded the quiet streets of her hometown for a crowded movie set on the shores of Maui, and is spending quality time with her co-star Rainer Devon, one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive. But when troubled star Jordan Wilder lands the role of the other point in the movie’s famous love triangle, Paige’s crazy new life gets even crazier.
In this coming-of-age romance inspired by the kind of celeb hookups that get clever nicknames and a million page views, Paige must figure out who she is – and who she wants – while the whole world watches.
I am a sucker for books about Hollywood. 99 out of 100 times, they get it factually wrong, but I don't even care. I love Stars: They're Just Like Us! books and those cheesy Disney Channel movies where Jerstin Weeber/Rick Ronas/Whatever McTeenybopper falls in love with and unassuming nobody who cares naught for fame and is "so real" and "doesn't know she's beautiful". That shit is my catnip, okay? But the problem with Famous in Love is it's all those things... but it's not fun. It's not original, it's extremely serious, and it's extremely boring.
For a while there (though I kept making faces at the schlock and cringing at some of the less-than-stellar sentences), I sort of floated along with the escapist plot. I love escapist plots, and movies, and Hawaii. Who hasn't imagined themselves being where Paige is? (Teenage Gillian would have made a hell of a Bella, okay?) But then I realized that this was part of the problem. I was floating. I was only half there, because Paige is so completely boring. I felt distanced from her. It's not so much that I have no idea who she is (though I don't), it's that I'm convinced there's not much there besides insecurity and a thirst to act and prove herself and not disappoint people and blah blah blah.
Most of the actual characterization for all the characters, not just Paige, is told to us in big expositional glomps. Take, for instance, the little story about what Paige does when she gets her first big "I'm a movie star!" check. Like, okay, she doesn't have to do with her money what I would do (SHOES! Then books. All the books. More shoes. PARIS. Books. Bookshoes! In Paris!). But Paige tries to give the money to her parents, and when they refuse, she donates part of it to charity. And then does nothing. I...seriously? Like, sure, that makes you a great person. And if a real life person did that, I'd commend them. But in fiction, that makes you dishwater. It tells me nothing about Paige other than the fact that she makes my nose involuntarily wrinkle.
So Paige is, per the blurb, "plucked from obscurity" to star in the silver screen adaptation of Locked, aka Twilight on an island. The narrative bypasses a lot of super cool stuff (likes the ins and outs of the audition process, the moment Paige found out her life would change, the moment she left home for the first time, her first day on set, etc) and zooms straight from the first audition to six weeks on set. Paige is overwhelmed, but the male lead, supersexybland Rainer, is supportive and has dimples and of course she gets all blushy around him and whaddayaknow, a crush develops. BUT THEN Hollywood bad boy Jordan arrives on set (already ten thousand times more compelling than Rainer the very first time he and Jordan make DAMN NEAR CATACYLSMIC eye contact, and things get tricky. What follows is a lot of blushing, piercing gazes, and more blushing.
As I said, I don't dislike love triangles. And the love triangle in this is not even that offensive, since it's supposed to mirror/echo/whatever the love triangle in the book. The problem is--the root of all the problems in the book--is Paige. i can't track her character motivations. I have no idea why she is driven to be so loyal, so moved, or so attached to Rainer. (Especially since Rainer is kind of a dick.) I have no idea why she takes one look at Jordan with his "black eyes" (?!) and feels the whole earth spin on its axis. I couldn't understand her emotions about anything, be it her insecurity about fulfilling this very popular role. She was such a wet dishrag, just kind of there, never pulling me into the narrative at all. It made what should have been a fluffy, swoony, summer vacation kind of book just kind of... blah.
Paige doesn't know she's beautiful... which is why she's a movie star and two movie stars are in love with her and she's a god damn movie star. But this makes her reeeeal, and YAWN. YAWN CENTRAL. This is only good when it's in a ridiculous DCOM movie, the kind I FULL DISCLAIMER LOVE. But this book is trying to say things and be deep and be all about Paige's emotions and the nature of love and it's just... not. I was hoping maybe we'd get some super cute date scenes or chemistry or banter, but... Paige doesn't really domuch? Like, I'm not sure she spends that much time with the boys? Mostly she wanders the beach and swims and thinks and has angstical eye contact with Jordan, who apparently has bazookas for eyeballs, be warned, and then Rainer puts a hand on her waist and she blushes and then thinks about her lack of self-worth, and on and on. White people white peopling it up on a movie set.
So while all of this was not great, it wasn't spork-your-eyeballs-out bad. What was the dealbreaker for me was the writing, which is purely a matter of taste. Sadly, this writing just wasn't mine. It veered towards the weirdly overdramatic, with lots of repetition and sentence fragments and overwrought metaphors. Then, again, there was the general blandness, the abundance of "telling", and the fact that there was a total of about two jokes in the whole book.
Quotables so you can judge if this writing is your kind of thing or not:
I let myself think about what it would be like to get this part. To be in a real film. To prove to my family that this is more than an adolescent fantasy.
Jessica is the director's assistant. She's twenty-three and beautiful. The kind of girl you cross a room for just to be closer to her. Long blond hair and even longer legs.
My chest stumbles right along with my feet.
I don't mean to alarm you Paige but I think your chest just fell down
"You're sweet," he says, "and smart. And talented. I like your spunk and how unassuming you are. I like how new this is to you. You're so real."
YES, BECAUSE ALL SEASONED HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS ARE ACTUALLY JUST FEMBOTS WITH REALLY GOOD MAKEUP.
Also, how bloody predictable. And insulting! "Yes, I find the fact that you are naive and dumb and unknowledgable about this industry we are both in very attractive! I like them under informed!"
He catches my eye instantly. Did you ever have a moment that just solidified? Like the freeze-frame was so strong you could swear time stopped and hardened? Something makes my body feel tight, like my skin all of a sudden is too small.
You should proooobably see a doctor. Ask her about that chest-stumble thing.
The fact that she doesn't see that, that she doesn't understand this isn't some kind of fantasy, makes my heart ache. Because it means she doesn't really understand me.
I look at Jordan, and for a moment our eyes lock. I see something in them. Something that wasn't there before. A flicker of light in the blackness.
I think about Rainer, how upset he was. I think about how he's taken care of me here--how much I already owe him. I think about how I really care about him, even if I'm not yet sure what that means. And I know what I should do for him.
You know how when you're taking a photo sometimes the shutter stalls and the picture goes into freeze-frame? My image of Jordan just hangs in the viewfinder.
What is with you and the god damn freeze-frames?
I snatch my gaze away from him, because I'm worried he can tell, just by looking at me, what it feels like inside.
Mostly leaving this because I totally thought this something dirty at first reading.
And all of a sudden, I understand why. I've been wrong. About everything. Because the thing I didn't understand about love--the biggest thing, the thing that makes it worthy of books and movies--is that epic, epic love is not about having someone. it's about willing to give them up. It's sacrifice. (Honestly, this whole entire passage, right at the end of the book, is just mind-boggling.)
If reading those quotes makes you more interested, then more power to you. This is totally a book that people love, and I'm happy for them, because I wanted to love this. But those quotes make me itchy and gaggy and I swear I'm breaking out in hives, so... yeah. Not for me, sadly. Not for me at all.
Read Catch a Falling Star instead.