By: Todd Strasser
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
All Jamie Gordon wants to do is to take pictures of celebrities…and maybe to become famous herself. She’s only fourteen, but already her pictures are sought after by fanzines and websites, and she’s invited to all the best parties. And now she has the chance of a lifetime. She has been invited to spend a week with Willow Twine, taking pictures of the teen superstar’s new chaste life. But when Jamie gets her hands on some sensational shots of Willow, she’s suddenly in over her head. The pictures could make her career…and destroy Willow’s. Everybody seems to want to get their hands on the photos, and Jamie has to decide what she really wants…and what she’s willing to pay to get it.
How I Came Across This Book
Famous caught my attention when it was first released. As someone who has spent way too much time reading celebrity gossip blogs, I was drawn to this story about a teenage girl who is part of the paparazzi in NYC.
Amazon Reviewers Didn’t Like This Book…
Unlike anything I have read in a long time, the story doesn’t take place in a linear fashion. Chapters bounced from one character’s point of view to another. Not only does the voice change from chapter to chapter, so does the timeline. One chapter may take place in the present while the next takes place in the future. This isn’t a book you can breeze through. You have to put extra effort into keeping up with where you are in the story.
While some reviewers didn’t like non-linear unfolding, I didn’t mind it because the story was riveting enough for me to stick with it as the author swerved in various directions.
Turning the Camera
Jamie Gordon is girl who got into the business of celebrity photography by accident. Now that she’s in it, just like the other photographers she works alongside of, she’s hungry for the “money shot”. She’s savvy and she’s a hustler who will go as far as paying an 11 year-old for information that might help for get an exclusive shot of an actress trying to cover something up.
As far as characters go, Jamie was one of those you wish you could hang out with for an afternoon because she has a “wise beyond her years” vibe about her.She’s smart and observant. She’s also consumed by her photography and isn’t immune to wanting to be famous herself.
Todd Strasser did a good job when it came to examining celebrity from every angle. On the one hand, Jamie is always on the hunt for a photo she can sell, things change for her when she was profiled in a newspaper and becomes a celebrity herself. While Jamie goes through her own celebrity spin cycle, her best friend Avy, a teen actor, obsesses about fame and goes down a dark tunnel to acquire it.
Another layer comes in the form of Willow Twine, a teen starlet, whose life isn’t as squeaky clean as her fans would think. The story from Jamie’s perspective takes brief pauses as letters to Willow, written by a stalker named Richard, are included in between Jamie’s chapters.
What Was Lacking…
While Jamie was a very well-developed character, I felt as though the Avy wasn’t fleshed out enough. The reader is given just enough information to feel his obsession and desperation to become famous. We sense the lengths he will go to, but yet the focus isn’t left on him enough to really become invested. As a reader, you’re left feeling disturbed, but just not a whole lot of sympathy.
Same goes for the Willow Twine character. While things are alluded to, the reader does get the full understanding of what this character was really up to.
The Message: Celebrity Is a Dark, Dark Entity
The author did his research and, from what I have seen and read, gave an accurate portrayal of how things in the celebrity photo business operate.
Telling the story from a 14 year-old perspective was an interesting choice. It’s hard enough for a teen to deal divorced parents, helping to take care of a disabled brother, and getting through high school. Add a competitive job, and a desire for fame to the mix and you’re left with a girl who endures a lot of loss and sacrifice without much of a payoff.
While this novel tries to end on soft, introspective note, trust me, you won’t leave this story feeling warm and fuzzy.
If anything, this book leaves you thinking about all those people we love to read about—to worship them when they are on a career high and revel in their downfalls—and wonder the price they are paying to be famous.
Buy the book on Amazon.
Check out Todd Strasser’s” Web site.
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