Sunday, May 1, 2011

Review: Famous (Strasser)

Todd Strasser
259 p.
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishers
Publication Date: January 25, 2011

Summary: Jamie Gordon is 15 years old, and she's rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. A photographer to celebrities (a.k.a. the paparazzi), Jamie gets the opportunity of a lifetime when she is invited to spend a week with teen pop sensation Willow Twine. But when Jamie obtains some photos of Willow that could destroy Willow's career, Jamie must decide how far she will go to pursue her own dreams.

What I liked: What I like about this book are the very things I do not like about it. With a unique format of emails, interviews, and news clippings, Famous begs the question, "How far does one go to pursue fame?" Each piece of the plot puzzle provides the reader clues to mysteries presented in the story. Even though it can be confusing, telling the story out of chronological order keeps readers guessing about how certain things occurred. We know the end, but we wonder how on earth things got so bad for the characters.  

What I didn't like: Told with constant flashbacks and flash-forwards, the timeline can be confusing, especially in the beginning. Readers must pay close attention to the dates in each chapter in order to understand the chain of events. Also, some major characters are utterly unlikeable. Willow is a stereotypically shallow and self-absorbed Hollywood Teen Queen. For most of the book, Julie and Avy are self-obsessed whiners whose lives revolve around the pursuit of fame. Avy "hates his parents" for making what they believe--and clearly is--the best decision for their son. Julie thinks nothing of skipping school, argues with her mother, ignores her disabled brother, and is completely blind to her boyfriend's irritation with her self-centeredness. Considering our society's love affair with fame and money, is it realistic for Avy and Julie to behave this way? Sadly, it probably is.

The depressing ending seems somewhat heavy-handed. Having just finished the final segment, I'm unsure how I'm supposed to feel or what I got out of reading. Satisfaction, no. Profound sadness for our society? Without a doubt.

Front Cover: I always love simple covers. This one goes with the story, even if it is a little unremarkable.

Content: A few mentions of drug and alcohol use (cocaine, marijuana, cigarettes, beer). Language is very mild (maybe a couple of damns). Hints at teen sexuality, but they are also mild references.

Overall Rating: I'm neutral on this one. I definitely enjoyed reading it; I turned the pages eagerly to figure out what was going on. It was just so sad; I do not know who I would recommend it to.

Give it to: Kids who really like mysteries or who are looking for sad.

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