It’sRealityShowClipTiiiiiime!: L.A. Candy

The first guest post is by Lauren (no relation to Conrad), who dared to read Lauren Conrad’s er, um, “book” when I couldn’t. Check out her phenomenal take on pop culture at her blog, The Unprofessional Critic.


I’ll admit–I have a soft spot for season 1 of The Hills. I even bought it on DVD after my second go-round at the bar exam–at a used-record store where I could feel the judgmental hipster stares from the clerks. Sure, it was slightly boring, but looking back, it was so . . . innocent. Lauren was a cute Everygirl who’d just happened to land a dream internship. Her roommate Heidi was slightly idiotic but meant well. Her coworker Whitney was sweet and professional. Even wonky-eyed Audrina was kinda funny in small doses, especially when she dated male models who said things like, “This salad’s like a party.” Remember when Lauren’s biggest worries were whether grizzled boss Lisa Love would yell at her, or whether her ex-new-boyfriend Jason would screw up–again? Man, those were the days.

Then season 2 happened, and all innocence was lost. Like a J.J. Abrams smoke monster, a flesh-colored bearded manboypig descended and chaos ensued. Heidi morphed into a 97% plastic robot who made awful YouTube music videos. There were fake pregnancy scares, way more nightclubs with dubbed dialogue, shiny-faced sisters, and pervy greasers with two names. Though there were highlights–four words: Kelly “Power Bitch” Cutrone–The Hills became such a meta-farce of shallow L.A. stereotypes, so much so that even its original star couldn’t take it anymore. Whether Laguna Beach alum Kristin Cavallari will inject some much-needed lifeblood into the franchise remains to be seen.

So what’s a reality-show princess with no degree, a shaky resume and a defunct onscreen career to do? Easy–“write” a young adult novel! Hell, Stephenie Meyer did it and now she totes has a movie franchise starring an actress who could do way better and an uberdreamy girlyman! Who sparkles, dammit!

Does L.A. Candy live up to its shiny happy YA predecessors? I decided to investigate by requesting the tome for my birthday–I figure it’s okay because I’m not the one spending money on it. Behold, my recap of Lauren Conrad’s literary masterpiece, L.A. Candy:

I don’t hate the cover. It’s kind of cute. I’m especially digging the photo on the back:

She’s serious, y’all. Because “authors” don’t smile. They think pensive thoughts on how to properly disguise their own experiences so they won’t get sued. (What, you were expecting a tell-all? Ha! LC’s the literary equivalent of a cocktease. You’re in for some blue balls, reader.)

Here’s the skinny (literally, all the characters are perfect size whatevers): Jane Roberts is a wannabe event planner with perpetual wide-eyed amazement at her new home, Los Angeles. She’s moved from Santa Barbara with her bestie Scarlett, a low-maintenance hottie with a high IQ who’s attending college. Real college–USC. (This is where the “fiction” part comes in. I love how Scarlett is so clearly not based on any Hills girl. Lauren’s an “author,” you know.) Jane is taking time off before university to intern for Fiona Chen, a top event planner who happened to attend college with Jane’s mom. A chance meeting at a club thrusts Jane and Scarlett into the spotlight, as two of four protagonists in a new reality show. L.A. Candy is described as a “PG version of Sex and the City, only in L.A.” by their producer Trevor. The other two “stars” are Madison, a spoiled heiress/famewhore who’s played job-hop and has really bleached hair (I SMELL A DIG AT HEIDI, WHAT ABOUT YOU????) and Gaby, a junior publicist who according to Scarlett, never says anything interesting (guess Lauren couldn’t get away with calling the character Spadrina). (Note: at first I referred to Gaby as Gigi. Less than 8 hours after I finished the book. That’s just how memorable Aud–I mean, Gaby is.) Jane relishes her new fame–which leads to free clothes, a promotion at work, and a gorgeous apartment–while Scarlett is less than thrilled to be filmed during class and doesn’t like Gaby and Madison.

But O Noes! Jane has BOY TROUBLE! Before landing the show, she met superhottie actor Braden (because the name “Chody” was already taken). He gives her a stuffed puppy! Because she could never have a real one! (FINE, I thought that was a little bit sweet.) But Braden has a slutty on-again-off-again lover named Willow. We know she is a terrible person because she only shows up to make out with Braden right when Jane is making goo-goo eyes at him.

Then Jane attracts the attention of Jesse (“Flenser,” if you will), the son of two B-list celebs, who’s more than willing to have their dates filmed but totally still likes her for her. Right? However, Jesse gets drunk (never mind that there’s underage drinking all through this book–apparently getting a little sloshed at your twenty-first birthday party makes you an ASSHOLE!) and flirts with some bimbos, driving Jane back into the arms of Braden, who happens to be Jesse’s roommate! (!!!!!!) A few paparazzi photos, a tipoff by a certain famewhore with really bleached hair (whom Lauren was not permitted to call “Meidi”) who is now in cahoots with Flenser/Jesse, and suddenly Jane might not be America’s Sweetheart anymore. THE HORROR!

Then there’s a cliffhanger for book two (this is supposed to be a trilogy. Yes, I wanted to kill myself when I found out Lauren Conrad had a three-book deal). Sound familiar? I wanted the final paragraph to be all Sweet Valley: Will Jane survive the paparazzi shakedown? What’s Mei–Madison got up her sleeve? Will Scarlett flunk out? Who the hell is the other chick, again? Find out in L.A. Candy #2: Two-Boy Season, brought to you by “author” Lauren “Liz Wakefield” Conrad.

Oh, and in case any of y’all were missing Whitney (because she added SO MUCH to The Hills and gave MTV the gift of a spinoff less compelling than my dirty laundry), have no fear! Three-quarters into the book, Jane JUST HAPPENS to get a new coworker named Hannah, “a tall, slim girl with a slick, honey-blond ponytail and intelligent brown eyes.” Shitney even gets her own outfit description, Claudia Kishi-style: “navy, high-waisted pants, a white silk blouse and a single strand of long pearls . . . conservative, but pretty.” The worst part of all this? Jane ACTUALLY BELIEVES she’s just getting a young, pretty new coworker and it has NOTHING TO DO with the reality show she’s spent three-quarters of a book filming. Yeah.

Methinks Ms. Conrad read some Sweet Valley High and Baby-Sitters Club before penning her first novel. All in the name of quality YA research, of course. Hell, with her celebrity connections, she could probably hook up a drinking party with the ghosties. (Actually, I’d love to get drunk with the SVH and BSC ghosties. Wouldn’t you? You know that Peter Lerangis totally has dirt on Ann M. Martin.) Case(s) in point:

* The very first sentence: “Jane Roberts leaned against her dresser, studying the way her white silk nightie looked against her sun-kissed skin. Her loose blond curls cascaded softly over her shoulders as she pretended not to be interested in the guy in her bed.” All that’s missing are eyes the color of the Pacific Ocean.
* Jane’s description of her BFF/roomie Scarlett: “a rebel with off-the-charts SAT scores who never hesitated to say what was on her mind. And despite the fact that she refused to brush her hair or wear anything fancier than jeans, she was still gorgeous.” So that first sentence has shades of Kristy Thomas, while the second is stripped down Claudia Kishi. I really wish the following sentence had been, “On anyone else the uncombed hair and jeans would look crazy, but on Scarlett it looked cool.”
* Where would a crappy YA novel be without size-ism? While shopping on Melrose, Jane and Scarlett encounter the assistant to Someone Important. When the sales clerk says they’ll get the dress in a size four, “[t]he guy gasped. ‘A four? Eeeeek! Don’t ever, ever let her hear you say that! She’s a two. Write that down–two, two, two!” Shades of “perfect size six” in SVH (or four, if you’re reading the updated ones).
* Braden and Jane are very Todd and Liz, only with alcohol. They’re boring, they both kind of cheat on their respective lov-ahs, and Jane’s never actually naked. And Braden won’t appear on L.A. Candy, because as a struggling actor, being on a reality show would make it harder for him to get parts. Is that really true anymore? Anyway, integrity blah blah blah YAWN.
* Shades of Liz Wakefield: Jane has no barrettes, but she definitely has sanctimony. She’s totally judgy of Scarlett’s dating habits, because of course Jane herself is still getting over the guy she lost her V card to. And the last chapter, when the shit hits the fan and Jane finds out that compromising pics of her have been released to the paps? The book might as well have had this illustration:

(I like to think of the man-arm as the threatening paparazzi, or possibly an amorous Jesse. Or maybe even Scarlett.) You know that frozen pancakes can’t be far behind.

One last annoying thing: the freaking text-speak. I can understand a BFF or two, but do people really think WTF? Or OMG? Yes, I have been known to say these things on occasion, but what goes on in my mind is spelled-out words. Maybe I’m horribly out of touch with today’s youth. This does not bode well for my YA writing career. Oh hell, the fact that LAUREN CONRAD has a freaking three-book deal does not bode well for my YA writing career.

I’ll say this: the writing is no more horrendous than an SVH novel. Lauren Conrad is insisting that she wrote the book herself, sans ghostwriter, and I’m actually inclined to believe her. (Of course, I also think there’s a fine line between “I wrote this with no ghostie” and “I wrote this by myself, but it was heavily doctored by my editor.”) Just like Lauren herself, this book isn’t terrible. And that’s pretty much how Lauren got so popular: by not being terrible.

BTW (aaagh! text-speak!), if you want to read a really excellent YA book about a regular girl on a reality show, try The Real Real by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (authors of The Nanny Diaries). Fleshed-out, funny characters, and a far more compelling look at what it’s really like to have your life filmed for the world to see. Good stuff.

23 thoughts on “It’sRealityShowClipTiiiiiime!: L.A. Candy

  1. h. says:

    well, really, the fact that lauren conrad has a three-book deal does actually bode well for your book-writing career (and mine), since the publishing industry is so on-the-rocks these days that big-selling ya books like lauren conrad’s are one of the only things that allows them to bankroll up-and-coming authors.

    while i didn’t read the book because my library’s not carrying it, and i refuse to pay money for it . . . is there any way that scarlett could be partially based on lo? ok, so she’s not brunette, she’s not rebellious, and she didn’t show up on the first couple seasons of the hills . . . but she was lauren’s sidekick during her first two years of reality tv on laguna beach, she did go to “real school,” and she’s a lot sassier than all the other hills girls. and she did seem to have a hard time putting up with audrina and heidi. maybe lauren’s putting lo’s alter ego there from the start because that’s the way she wished it had unfolded in real life?

    lauren and heidi are so the real life liz and jess, though. this is not the first time i’ve noticed the parallels. does that make spencer a low-rent bruce patman? ugh.

  2. nikki says:

    I’ve never seen The Hills, but LC was freaking funny as herself on Family Guy. So she got a modicum of respect from me there.

    Also, are you sure you just recommended a Nicola Kraus/Emma McLaughlin novel? The Nanny Diaries and Citizen Girl made me want to lobotomize myself to forget the pain of having read those. Terrible, terrible writers.

  3. Jessi says:

    I, too, am a fan of The Hills (although I doubt I’ll be watching it anymore, as I am NOT a fan of KC), and I’ve been debating reading this book. Unless curiosity overwhelms me during my next trip to the bookstore, I’ll wait for the library or BookMooch to supply my copy.

    And I have to second nikki’s comment re: Kraus/McLaughlin. The Nanny Diaries and Citizen Girl were horrible (CG even more so). I can’t imagine their attempt at writing about reality TV is even half as good as LC’s.

  4. maybeimamazed02 says:

    I dunno, I liked Nanny Diaries and Citizen Girl, but didn’t like Dedication. Personal taste, I suppose. Their writing may be better suited to YA, however. I found more of a self-awareness in their novel that wasn’t in LC’s.

    Actually, I give LC a lot of credit in that she HASN’T made a complete ass out of herself the way many of her castmates have. She also hasn’t tried to become an actress (*cough* Audrina in Into the Blue 2), seems to have a sense of humor about her own celebrity, and is now trying to move on from the show.

    h., you are right! That is also why I try not to hate on Stephenie Meyer TOO much (though it can be very, very hard :).

    All of you–thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. Rio says:

    I’m impressed with Lauren Conrad for finding it in herself to write something longer than a text message. Even though that something is AWFUL. Seriously, the girl can’t write. (Another Liz similarity.)

    Also, I’m pretty sure that Scarlett is indeed based on Lo.

    “does that make spencer a low-rent bruce patman?”

    Just look up a picture of his car and see if it has 1spence1 plates.

  6. Gina says:

    Madonna children’s books and Lauren Conrad YA books make me want to hide under the bed and cry. Then I remember John Green’s doing pretty well, and I feel better. But still. Gah. GAH.

  7. Diana says:

    My theory is that Scarlett is based on Lauren’s friend Lo, who was on Laguna Beach and has popped up in a few episodes of The Hills. She went to USC.

  8. sunstreakedblonde says:

    This recap is amazing and this book sounds amazing. I must have it in my life, stat! (As long as I don’t have to pay for it). Love the SVH and BSC refs.

    I am an unabashed Hills addict and I actually kind of like Lauren, if only because, like other commenters have said before me, she isn’t (as much of) a fame whore as other reality stars and doesn’t have delusions of becoming an actress or pop star. I’m not a fan of her fashion line–boring and overpriced–but it’s refreshing to see her trying to have an actual career other than fame whoring.

    The only thing to make this even more awesome is if Heidi came out with a badly-ghostwritten (you know Heidi can’t read) YA novel of her own, complete with wide-eyed, innocent, misunderstood ingenue from Colorado embarking on a magical romance with her flesh-bearded Prince Charming, only to be thwarted at every turn by her evil, preachy, Liz-Wakefieldian ex-roommate.

    • maybeimamazed02 says:

      As God is my witness, if that novel ever comes out, I will recap it!!!

      (I like Lauren too. I also liked Kristin–and yes, I will be watching The Hills to see how she fits in with the Scooby gang.)

      • sunstreakedblonde says:

        Haha, yay!

        (And ITA, I couldn’t give up the Hills if I tried–sad, I know–but it’ll be interesting to see if Kristin brings the drama as well as she did on LB).

  9. gnatalby says:

    I can’t help but boggle at this line:

    “Her loose blond curls cascaded softly over her shoulders as she pretended not to be interested in the guy in her bed.”

    If he’s in the bed, it’s fair to say the playing it cool portion of the relationship is over. Look at least a little interested or he will wonder if you have violent mood swings.

  10. Lauri says:

    I volunteer with teenagers – they do not say OMG or WTF unless they are being ironic. BFF is a little more common.
    I remember an intern at work who was obsessed with The Hills, which is how I first heard about it. Of course said intern had a rougly $1200 sunglass wardrobe and didn’t understand why people would question spending $300 on “quality” sunglasses. To this day, Lauren reminds me of her.

  11. ihatewheat says:

    Let’s also not ignore the fact that Lauren DID NOT WRITE THIS. There is some MFA out there wondering why she spent $100,000 on a degree so she can ghostwrite this crap.

  12. Roger Patman says:

    Excellent review..LC should be so grateful to this blog. Because of this, I’m thinking of forking out the 17.50 or so to purchase this instant classic instead of buying food for my kids..I have priorities.

  13. adren says:

    Contrary to eveyone elses opinion I am a huge Lauren Conrad fan and love the hills! I absolutely loved this book and will be reading the second! Lauren great job and congrats on your achievements! The plot was awesome and kept me wanting more!

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