My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Point of View: 1st Person & Feminine
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Crime, Family
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 and 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.
Oh my, this is not the book I signed up for.
Except it one hundred percent is. I wanted to see a different side of Los Angeles, and that’s exactly what Alison Umminger showed me. And more. It just took some unexpected turns, that’s for sure.
I’ve never been to LA. Like many other people, I’ve made my opinion of it based on TV shows, movies, stars, etc. But what I knew of LA prior to my ‘‘awakening’’ made me think that the media has fooled me once more! Damn!
We all want to hide the ugly in everything. We don’t like it. We know it’s there, but we prefer to ignore it. Maybe if we don’t acknowledge it, and don’t think about it, it will eventually disappear from our minds and, eventually, planet Earth.
But Anna wants to see the ugly. She decided to spend the summer with her sister in LA, her sister who is an amateur actress. Because she stole money from her mother’s wife, she has to pay everything back. Her new job? Read everything there is about the Manson girls and report back.
Now this is something else that surprised me. Blame it on my age or my living in Canada, but I never heard of this case before. Boy did I learn of it though, from this book. Every little sordid detail, or so it felt. Oh god, I can’t believe no one in my life has ever mentioned the Manson girls before.
While Anna does focus on the awful, she doesn’t judgementally describe the Manson girls exactly. Instead, she tries to dig deeper, see both parties, and even lets us form our own opinion. For instance, it was mentioned that the Manson girls regret what they have done, and that both surprised and perplexed me.
But of course, this is not the only thing the story is about. Anna’s relationship with her mother and sister is another element. Working as a reader of everything Manson-related makes her realize that perfect relationships do not exist. Because for a perfect relationship to exist, there must be perfect interactions and, ultimately, perfect people.
Such a hard book to put down. Woah.
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