Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book review: Relatively Famous

Relatively Famous
When an ordinary small-town girl meets her famous father for the first time, a whole new and exciting world is about to unlock its doors for her. The question is, at what cost?

Relatively Famous by Jessica Park

Dani McKinley is a typical teen who lives a perfectly normal, uncomplicated and relatively simple life in Michigan. With a fabulous mom, said mom's chef boyfriend and her best friend Samantha, Dani couldn't ask for anything more.

The problem with normal, however, is that it never stays the same and Dani is quick to find this out when her life abruptly comes to a crashing halt and she suddenly finds herself subject to intense scrutiny and unwelcome attention from the clamouring and swarming papparazi (who corner her while on her way to school one morning).

When they start making bizarre claims about her being the daughter of world-famous actor, Mark Ocean, her head goes into a complete tailspin. Being the level-headed girl she is, she naturally refuses to believe the ridiculous notion, and although freaked out, runs back home to confront her mother. 

... only to have a rather guilty and shame-faced Leila (her mother )confess that Dani is, in actual fact, the Hollywood icon's daughter.

Thus begins a new and marked change in her life when the actor invites Dani to spend the summer in California in order to get to know Mark. 

Soon, immersed in a world of endless wealth, club memberships and a whole new wardrobe to boot, Dani quickly learns that all the wealth in the world couldn't make up for the fact that what Mark has in money, he sorely lacks in the parenting skills department.  And what she doesn't know is that Mark has his own nefarious reasons for wanting her in his life.
 
As the summer progresses, Dani makes new friends, lives the glam life and gains the attention of a gorgeous young personal trainer as well a sweet surfer boy. But in a world where glitz and glamour reign, will Dani still be able to hold onto her sense of identity without compromising her sense of self or will she succumb to the allure of the superficial life?
My thoughts:

It's been a while since I've read a contemporary YA fiction novel, so when I first stumbled across Jessica Park on her twitter account and saw that she was offering PDF versions of Relatively Famous to YA book bloggers, I took a chance and decided to ask if she'd be willing to send me a copy of this book.

Luckily for me, she was more than happy to send me a copy, which is how I came to eventually read Relatively Famous.  My opinion is that it's one of those books that is highly underrated, which is why I suppose I was so surprised at just how much I ended up enjoying this novel.

It's a fast, breezy and balmy read that immediately brings to mind hot summer days on the beach, mixed with the cosmopolitan but shallow life of typical Hollywood glamour.

 It would certainly be easy to mistake this for a rather superficial read, but throughout the novel, Jessica Park threads in wonderful themes of friendship and family dynamics that gives this book a wonderful and substantial amount of substance.

I was hooked from the start and the wonderful characters only served to add to that feeling.

Dani? 

She's an awesome character.

It's hard not to like a girl who is sweet, accommodating and so easy to relate to like Dani. What I especially loved is that you could see obvious character growing pains and experience both her growth, and her Hollywood bratty behaviour - and her learning to own up to her actions and faults was definitely one of the things that really made this book such wonderful read.

There's nothing more that I love than characters that are flawed but willingly admit to making mistakes and taking steps to go about fixing them. She's a character who will make you smile, she'll make you want to hug her, and even though she'll cause you moments of frustration, you'll still find yourself rooting for her wholeheartedly.

Another thing that I adored about this book, is that many of the chapters showcase Mark's point of view. I have to congratulate Jessica for including Mark's point of view, because without it, I don't think I would have had much sympathy for him, or liked him for that matter.

As it is, despite his initial motives for wanting Dani to spend the summer with him (It's all about the image baby!), I loved that despite himself, he couldn't help but fall for the charmer of a girl.

I loved how the relationship between Dani and Mark progressed and thought that it was handled with such a tender, breezy and obviously affectionate tone and manner (never in a manner that was rushed or unbelievable), that it seemed all the more real for it. 

From overwhelming Dani with all the things that his money manages to buy, to later relenting and allowing Dani to intervene in his love life, the two manage to find a new common ground and companionship with one another that neither were expecting.

Want to know what else is fabulous?

There's actually no real mean girl in this novel. Hooray for that!  Sure the friends she makes in LA are spoilt and get everything they want, but the girls aren't really mean - which for me, was incredibly refreshing (Can you tell I'm sick and tired of the whole mean girl angle in YA fiction?).

Of course, there's also the romance in this novel. Caught between two boys, Dani naturally at first gravitates towards the hot-stud of a trainer.  But once the lights fade and the glitter falls off, is it really him that she wants to be with?

I'm not going to say anything more on this really - except that I thought the romance, while not the overall focus of the novel, formed a nice backdrop which only added to an already strong story.

I did feel as if the ending was a little rushed and as if there were an issue or two that was still unresolved, but other than that, I can honestly say that I adored this cute, highly entertaining and very, very sweet read.

It's definitely the perfect YA beach read and gets a well-deserved 4 star rating from me!

Source: Sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion of the book in any way whatsoever.

10 comments:

Melissa said...

I've never even heard of this, but it sounds really really good! Excellent review! :D

Jan von Harz said...

Wow I think you are right about this one being underrated, based on your fabulous review, I am definitely going to be reading this one. I have been really enjoying contemporary YA of late and this sounds like a great addition to my list of must reads.

Jessica Park said...

Tammy, thank you so much for this review. You're an author's dream, and I'm so glad that you really "got" the book. :)

Jenny said...

What? No mean girl in a YA novel, you're kidding! I do love the sound of this one, it sounds sweet and cute but that there's some real depth there that makes it memorable and not so easily cast aside when you're ready to start the next book. Fabulous review Tammy!

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

This sounds like such a fun read! Definitely one to add to the summer 2011 reading list. Great review, Tammy!

Straylights said...

An amazing review as always :D Love how you can give such a clear picture of the book without spoiling too much and giving us just enough to want MORE MORE MORE!!! I'm totally going to add this to my tbr pile, even though I don't usually read books like this.

GABY said...

I have this one on my wishlist! I'm glad it's a refreshing YA novel, without the mean girls but still having romance ;)

Thanks for the review!

Aisle B said...

Great to hear that it represented a bit of YA in a positive light... aka minus the Mean girls. This one came through with sparks of "worthiness" for your reading fans.

Going to add this one to my reading list too.

PS Still reeling from Forbidden... WOW.

daydreamerN said...

this book sounds good. great review. I will be keeping my i out for this one. I love how cute your blog is!I just love fairies!

Clover said...

Yay. I absolutely adore reading reviews of books that I've never heard of, that sounds incredibly interesting! This one sounds like something I'd really love. Thanks for the great review :) (Also, hurrah for no mean girls!)