Proof of my devotion

When you are embarassed about a photo, what better way to deal with it than to post it for all the web to see? My father recently unearthed lots of old slides and scanned them and sent them to me. Among oodles of pictures of me with a bowl haircut, birthday parties at Pizza Hut, and on vacation at Sesame Place, each year our birthdays were recorded. Alas, my eleventh birthday:

Yes, my parents got me a t-shirt (or is that a snuggie?) that says “So many books…so little time”, because, you know, wearing that to junior high would ensure instant success. And I can’t remember if that is technically a perm or a body wave. Is there even a difference? You can see that year I was gaga over Christopher Pike, and I can identify those as Scavenger Hunt, Gimme a Kiss…and I don’t know. But there is a definitely a Fabulous Five Super Special lurking underneath there, and a book called Breaking Up With Ernie that I recall being obsessed with.

Skip ahead a year, to my twelfth birthday…the perm is still there (yeouch) and my excitement is over the Baby-sitters Club Calendar.

For the love of Pete, I hope my outfit was just the pajamas. The best thing about the calendar is  that there was a “map” of Stoney Brook in the back, and it was not what I imagined at all. The neighborhood of course only consisted of the people mentioned, and Kristy only seemed to live a few blocks away from the rest. Did they think we wouldn’t notice the cartological inconsistencies?

To help you erase these images from your mind, I’ve got exciting news. I’m in touch with a former SVU ghostwriter and I will be posting an interview soon, as well as a giveaway of some signed books as well as her new book.

Back in the Trenches: Sweet Little Lies

Lauren Conrad has another bestseller. And I’m going to put a gun in my mouth.

Luckily, guest poster Lauren (not Conrad) takes one for the team and reviews it. As she would say “Go unpro!” and read her blog The Unprofessional Critic.

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It’s Saturday night, I’m at my favorite bookstore, and much like Lauren Conrad on a bad hair day (except dorky, bespectacled, and well, not a perfect size two), I’m praying I don’t get recognized.

See, I used to work at this very bookstore. And my hot punky former coworker, well, still works there. And I really didn’t want him ringing up my Lauren Conrad novel.

Last July, I guest-blogged my thoughts on LC’s first literary masterpiece, L.A. Candy. I promised ihatewheat that I’d follow through with the follow-up, Sweet Little Lies. . . only it wasn’t so easy this time. For one, it’s not my birthday or Christmas, so I actually have to spend money on this one. Money that will no doubt go toward Lauren’s manicures, when I can’t afford to get my own nails done.

And I run the risk of Hot Hipster Former Coworker looking at my purchase when he should be looking at my boobs.

I took a deep breath, stepped up to the register, the words “it’s for an ironic blog!” on my tongue and threatening to burst forth . . . and was rung up by a very polite individual who no doubt was still rolling his eyes in his mind.

All for y’all. And okay, I was morbidly curious too.

For me, L.A. Candy was the literary equivalent of a Marshmallow Peep, now available year-round as chicks, snowmen, or truly frightening Pepto Bismol-hued monster hearts. Sweet and fun to ingest, but largely forgettable and best in small doses. Also, as my college roommates and I discovered one night when we were bored, would probably blow up if we microwaved it long enough.

Forget Marshmallow Peeps: Sweet Little Lies was the literary equivalent of dog crap coated in granulated sugar. I used to eat granulated sugar straight up, but even when covered with grainy white goodness, a turd’s a turd. I’m not sure if Lauren’s still maintaining the “I wrote this all by myself because I’m a big girl” facade, but something went wonky here. I’m thinking her L.A. Candy editor lost the will to live somewhere along the way, or quite possibly burned the hell out after burning the midnight oil to make L.A. Candy into something readable, and this one Lauren actually DID write on her own.

For the love of God, someone get me a ghostwriting job because I could rock the shit out of the Lauren Conrad book franchise. Or at least make them readable enough so I don’t have to turn to Joyce Maynard every 30 pages to avoid developing a self-injury habit.

Lauren Conrad gone wild. It ain’t pretty, folks. If not a sugar-coated turd, Sweet Little Lies is like those really nasty chocolate bunnies that are actually hollow and give you a really bad stomachache. She is a moderately literate closetmonkey.

But she doesn’t know that:

I bet posing with the lollipop was her idea. Because no one ever (*cough* Fleetwood Mac *cough*) has equated sweetness with lying. Just like florals for spring, LC is downright groundbreaking.

A brief recap of L.A. Candy: When we last left our fair heroine, wannabe event planner turned reality star Jane Roberts, she had cheated on her alcoholic douche of a boytoy Jesse (aka “Flenser”) with Jesse’s friend and roommate, aspiring actor Braden (Chody). Except the paparazzi–did you know that paparazzo is the singular form of paparazzi? Kimiko taught me that!–somehow found out, and Jane ended up escaping to Cabo with her costar, the fake-titted and blonde-brained Meidi, I mean Madison. Meanwhile, Jane’s book-smart yet HAWT BFF/roomie/reluctant reality show participant Scarlett was left behind with airheaded PR girl Gaby (Spadrina).

Believe me, this plot is friggin’ War and Peace compared to that of Sweet Little Lies. So much that I’m not going to outline the whole thing for ya. Think of it as agony-sparing. Let’s just say that . . . stuff happens. Flenser gets drunk. Jane gets sanctimonious. Madison gets manipulative and is a big huge liar as well as a plastic surgery-addicted hobag (who doesn’t make crappy YouTube videos because there’s such a thing as defamation and Lauren didn’t want to get sued). Spadrina is a dumbass and I bet she’s got a wonky eye. Chody makes a brief appearance with his whorish lovah Willow. I think someone gets punched.

Really, the only interesting character in this cerebral abomination is Scarlett, who learns to love (aw) a cute cameraman named Liam who can match her classic lit for classic lit. If Lauren or her entourage knew anything, they’da made Scarlett the main character. She’s like the Lila of this franchise: dark-haired, sassy, wealthy and waaaaaaay the hell more intriguing than boring-ass Jane.

Also, can we talk about how freaking naive Jane is? The only way I could understand her utterly sheltered and pop culturally uninformed little mind is if they had made her a cavewoman with her own language like Nell (1994 movie references FTW!). It ain’t 2000, kids: unless you’ve lived in solitary confinement for the past decade, you have a basic understanding of how reality TV works. You’re miked most of the time. Stuff is staged. If there’s not an actual script, then conversations are guided. And there’s editing editing editing.

Jane, on the other hand, is SHOCKED to find that her coworker Hannah (aka Shitney) was (GASP) hired specifically for the show and (GASP) is pushing a producer-mandated agenda.

Oh, and Madison gets blackmailed. By an anonymous source who has pictures of her with GLASSESand BROWN HAIR. NOOOOOOO!

Madison WISHES she was as cool as this brunette bespectacled lady.

The overarching theme of Sweet Little Lies is this: Lauren really, really, really hates Heidi. But she can’t murder Heidi in her sleep because truTV doesn’t get as many viewers as MTV, and Lifetime Television for Women is an entirely different demographic. So instead, Lauren rips the Madison character a new unbleached a-hole. Even in 300 pages of characters less dimensional than an environmentally-unfriendly grocery bag, Madison stands out as heinously one-note. She’s not only a sociopath masquerading as a party girl heiress, but a homewrecking prostitute, depending on married older boyfriends for income. She sells photos of Jane to tabloids in exchange for coverage, and lies about it. The only time there’s an iota of sympathy for Madison is near the end when she wishes she had a real boyfriend. And that’s just screwed-up in itself.

Now for the shitshow you’ve all been waiting for: QUOTES!

· . . . she had about a million things she’d rather be doing than attending some lame launch party for Cut (pronounced “cute”), a new clothing line by the Japanese-American pop star Mika. Apparently Lauren is unaware that this guy exists, that he’s fabulous, and that HIS MUSIC HAS BEEN FEATURED ON HER FRIGGING SHOW.
· Madison, requesting a nail color at her manicure: That really deep red. I think it’s called Poison Apple. Because “Trashy Disgusting Bitchcakes” would be considered inflammatory in a court of law.
· Ooh, a Proust reference! If Scarlett didn’t feel so crappy, she would answer the professor’s questions about the madeleine . . . Scarlett loved the idea of sensory experiences invoking memories. Lauren name-checks Wuthering Heights as well, but that doesn’t count because it was in a Twilight book.
· The red-haired girl was what’s-her-name, Willow, who was not Braden’s girlfriend, exactly, but more of a friend with benefits. (The arrangement was likely his idea, not hers.) Because normal women don’t want that kind of arrangement EVER. We prefer codependency and cheating, Liz-and-Todd style, with the occasional kidnapping (but only if frozen pancakes are involved).
· “No thanks,” Madison replied. “I’m trying to lose a few pounds.” And you could stand to lose more than a few pounds, she thought, eyeing Jane’s figure. Body snark, body snark, who’s got the body snark?
· Airheaded Gaby: I’ve got a fifth sense about stuff like that. The follow up quote, It’s like I have ESPN or something! was cut, as was the part where Gaby fondles her boobs in the rain.
· Aaaand the bastardization of “best friend forever:” Jane was her BFFN [explained earlier to be Best Friend for Now], or more accurately, her BFFC (best friend for cameras)–not her real BFF. Madison didn’t have real BFFs any more than she had real BFs. This is about when I threw my third manuscript out the window, because if this is what’s selling I truly don’t have a prayer.

My point? Sweet Little Lies isn’t fun-bad. It’s BAD-bad. I started drinking about halfway through and still didn’t enjoy myself. You’d think that someone mired in the reality-show experience could put together a convincing fictionalized tell-all, complete with disguised salacious details.

Nope. Shitty chocolate bunnies, y’all.

The object of my camp fetish

Check out those hunks in the background!

Caroline B. Conney, I salute you. How can I begin to thank you for bringing this book into my life? It has everything I love in a camp book: multiple perspectives, quirky campers, crushes, a harem of cute boys to pick from, bffs, nasty bosses, overnight trips, bitchy co-counselors, and a bittersweet ending.

Sadly, I am at a lost for words when I want to blog about something that is good. (Maybe I should explore that with my therapist?) If you didn’t catch this one the first time around, it’s worth seeking out. The main characters are Marissa and Violet, who at first seem very different, but end up uniting over their hatred of bitchy dance instructor Cathy (think Jessica Wakefield). Vi is a real girly-girl, and brought a trunk of makeup, but ends up proving herself. Vi wanted to be a counselor because her cousin met her husband working at a camp, but Vi doesn’t think about all the responsibility that camp brings. She ends up loving her campers and crushing on the various boys they work with. There are almost too many, I lose track of them.

Marissa is really relatable. She’s been a camp counselor for many years, and loved it, but as she’s gotten older and dealt with more teenage stuff, camp starts to suck for her when she’s not the popular one and she doesn’t really fit in with the cool crowd. She’s upset that camp just doesn’t do it for her anymore. She’s lusting after Sinclair, who is lusting after Cathy. She ends up becoming friends with a guy named Heath who is working at camp to hide out from the media, his father pulled a Bernie Madoff and it is all over the news.

Among other fun camp hijinks.

Ah, camp books.

Guest blogger: Girl talk

Guest blogger Neek1981 covers a Girl Talk book, something I would never touch. Apparently I missed out.

To those of you out there who missed out on the Girl Talk series, it was fuc***g amazing!
The books were about four BFFs who lived in Acorn Falls, Minnesota, which was about as wholesome as Sweet Valley. Up until a few years ago, I thought Minnesota was a wholesome, happy state (until a lady I worked with who was from MN told me it was a sh*thole filled with unemployed people who talk like Frances McDormand in that movie Fargo).
Anyway, the books were about four best friends in the 7th grade. Here they are:

Sabrina Wells, the overzealous girl who loves to shop, read horoscopes, and giggle. One disturbing thing about Sabrina is that she’s obsessed with fashion magazines and subscribes to them religiously. Throughout the series she sometimes says she has baby fat, and even goes on a fruit-only diet at some point, however, she is always described as being petite, and NO ONE else in the books ever calls her overweight. I think she’s a prime candidate for body dismorphic disorder. She reminds me of Jessica Wakefield because she’s such an attention seeker.

Katie Campbell, a blonde, straight A student who color coordinates her socks to match her hair ribbons. Sound like anyone you know? (Ahem, Liz Wakefield, come on dooowwwn!)

Randy Zak, the hip New Yorker with a spiked haircut who dresses like Claudia Kishi but has the personality of Julia Sugarbaker. She always talks about how awesome New York is. I live in NYC, and I don’t think it’s nearly as awesome as people have made it out to be.

Allison Cloud, the exotic-looking girl who is quiet and shy. Can’t think of anything snarky to say about Allison. I like that she’s Native American ’cause I like diversity. I also like her ’cause she’s not conceited about how she looks, even though everyone tells her how gorgeous she is, and she almost became a fashion model in one book (of course!). She reads Elizabeth Barrett Browning and campaigns for saving the earth’s natural resources.

Each book is told in first person from one of the fab four’s perspective. Face Off is told by Katie Campbell who begins the book by describing the perfection of her older sister Emily (kinda reminds me of how every SVH book has at least a dozen paragraphs about the Wakefield gene pool). Emily looks like a Barbie doll and has perfect blonde hair and perfect blue eyes and even her chin is perfect. What the hell is a perfect chin anyway? According to Katie, it’s one that’s not too pointy and not too round, which pretty much describes almost EVERYONE’S chin, but I digress. Aside from being perfect-looking, Emily dates the captain of the football team, and is a pom-pom girl….Oh, hell. Just once, I’d like to read a f*cking kids’ book where the ‘perfect girl’ is NOT a blonde cheerleader. Why can’t she be a hairy legged feminist? Or even better, the perfect girl could be a non-white, non-cheerleader.

Katie is a 7th grade flag girl (which is like a cheerleader in the making). Basically she bounces up down and waves a flag around, however, Katie’s heart isn’t set on flag waving. Her true love is…ice hockey! So after her friend Randy Zak goes all girls-are-just-as-good-as-boys in the cafeteria in front of half the hockey team, Randy coaxes Katie into trying out for the team.

Scottie Silver, the guy Katie has the love jones for, is the captain of the hockey team. He has, get this, blonde hair that curls up around his hockey letter jacket and eyes that crinkle in the corners when he smiles (a.k.a. crow’s feet).

When Katie goes to try out for the team, Coach Budd (yep, that’s what they call him) tells Katie that she cannot try out because there has never been a girl on the team and they aren’t going to have one on there now, damn it!

Katie’s friend Allison, turns all Martin Luther King and basically gives Coach Bud a Let Freedom Ring speech about how Title IX says Katie has some freakin’ inalienable right to try out.

The Coach lets her try out and the guys all gang up on her. Even the ones on her team during the scrimmage hide from her so that she has no one to pass the puck to. Even worse, they beat the s*it out of her! They hip check her, slam her into the boards, and pretty much do everything short of beating her with their sticks in an attempt to scare her off. She goes home black and blue, but survives the tryouts, which last about three days.

One day when Katie is leaving tryouts, Scottie Silver (Mr. Crow’s Feet) comes up to her after having knocked the holy hell out of her on the ice. He says the most hateful things to her about how she should man up if she wants to play a man’s game. She tells him off and says he doesn’t scare her.. And then, he leans over and kisses her. WTF???

After the kiss, he runs away and she walks home with her hand on her cheek and actually considers never washing that cheek again. She calls Sabrina and they talk about the kiss and what it could mean.

Now, one thing I HATE about Girl Talk is the phone conversations. They’re written something like this:

Katie calls Sabrina.

Sam:Hello.
Katie: Hi, can I speak to Sabs?
Sam:Sure. (yells) Blabs, phone for you!
Sabrina:Hi, Katie. What’s up?
Katie:Hi, Sabs. …Well, Scottie SIlver kissed me
Sabrina:AHHHHHH! OMG!!!

It goes on for a whole chapter with Sabrina calling Allison to tell her the news and then Allison calls Randy, and it’s so retarded. They conclude that Scottie hearts Katie.

Oh, did I mention Scottie hangs out with Stacey “the Great” Hansen and her crowd? Stacey Hansen is the principal’s daughter and she’s spoiled and stuck up. Stacey is thirteen, blonde, has never had a pimple in her life. She already wears heels and diamond earrings. She hangs all over Scottie like Jessica Wakefield on a rich transfer student.

The book ends with the big game. Katie steals the puck at the last minute and passes it to Scottie who makes the game winning shot at the last possible second (cliche much?). The fans go wild and actually chant: Katie! Katie!

After the game, Scottie ignores perfect Stacey and offers to walk Katie to Fitzy’s for ice cream. Katie accepts, of course, because if a guy beats you black and blue, it must be love.

Quickies: Me and Fat Glenda

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First of all, if you are trying to tell me the girl in the striped shirt is fat, then we are in trouble. Secondly, Linda Perl, you need a good editor to help you with your writing. There was way too many ideas going on for a single book. Sarah lives in California with crazy hippy parents. They don’t mention it, but you know it’s Berkeley. Ah, those were the days when Berkeley was the alternative center of the universe, instead of what it has turned into: old, aging hippies, clueless college students, and yuppies with their expensive strollers. But I still love it (I’m East bay for life).

This gal, Sarah, has an older brother and their thang is they make alphabet burgers. As in A is for Avacado Burgers, B is for Bacon burgers, etc. Sarah is also ashamed of her parents when they move in a garbage truck to Rhode Island or Maine or somewhere similar. Sarah meets the titular Glenda, who is not only fat but is the town scapegoat because of said fatness and her social awkwardness. She’s the kind of girl you want to feel bad for, but she doesn’t make it easy for herself (not talking about her weight, but her extreme neediness and lack of social savvy. Then again, Gelnda’s kind of fun, and kids are really mean.) Sarah actually finds most of the kids boring, and actually appreciates Glenda’s loyalty as a friend. Then there’s some drama about Halloween and a plot to ruin a garbage statue that Sarah’s parents sculpted on their front lawn.

We also are given a glimpse into Glenda’s fucked up relationship with her perfectionist mother and Glenda’s sad attempt at seducing Sarah’s older brother. At the end, Sarah ends up moving away again but promises to write to Glenda. We are supposed to be happy that Glenda finally has a friend, but now she’s moving away? Why punish this character even more?  Also, as I said, there are too many tidbits in this book, I’ve never read anything so unfocused.

I do seem to remember a sequel where Glenda loses weight by eating only three meals a day with nothing in between. Hence an inspiration for the diet I went on in high school, and lost 50 pounds as well as my healthy relationship with food and a healthy self-image. Woopsies! I guess I should blame Lila Perl for 15 years of my life I will never get back.

The Vampire Diaries: just what we need, more damsels in distress

I am sure that some producer has had The Vampire Diaries series on some back shelf for almost 20 years and with the success of vampire stories, ran over, dusted it off, and put it on the fast track for production. It’s a series I love to hate, so I am dubious of how they can do it justice as a series. By looking at these promo pics, I’ve decided not to touch it with a ten foot pole.

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Why must all these vampire stories be about helpless, fragile females? And yes, don’t let Sookie Stackhouse’s sassy backtalk fool you- she is also a damsel in distress (I’ve only seen the show, not read the books). So firstly, Elena is supposed to be BLONDE. Was it really that hard to find a young blond actress? Or perhaps this no name just wooed them so much they had to cast her. And it seems her options are to be killed or get raped while she looks on with teary eyes.

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And behold: Stefan, our hero. Eh, he so does not do it for me. He looks more like the dim-witted bland high school jock. Not the Eurotrashy, sensitive, and brooding Stefan.

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Ian Somerhalder, as Damon, has a better grasp on the Eurotrash look. I can’t hate on Ian, because Rules of Attraction may be in my top-ten movies ever (and the reasons why is another discussion). I can see him being the evil one. His eyebrows are already slanted inwards permanently. I do hope we see flashbacks to their origins and Ian gets to wear some 1800s aristocrat garb.

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Oh, this one is clever. Stefan: “I’m so conflicted!” Damon: “lunchtime!” Elena: “I guess I’ll just lie here and have no affect on this outcome.” I think they were going for showing the plot of the series in one photo, but I see incestual threesome. I guess my mind just goes that way. So sue me.

Since I am up at 4:00am writing this post, I obviously have some insomnia and therefore have the time to research who I would cast. Although these days I am not in the loop with today’s hot teen stars.

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Laura Ramsey, star of such cinematic masterpeices as The Ruins, She’s The Man, and The Covenant. She’s the epitome of the blond, popular girl. She also plays the wide-eyed gal pretty well. Also, she needs a better casting agent.

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For Stefan, I’m going with old-school Jason Behr. As Max Evans he did a good job iof being the silent, sulking type. With a great bod. Don’t even think about hating on Roswell, it is near and dear to my heart. What? What? Ok, I’m pretending Season 3 did not exist. But Tess brainwashing lil’ Hanks to think he went to Sweden so she could decode the plans to operate a spaceship pod? That’s good stuff. That’s a whole other conversation.

Damon was a harder choice. I’m thinking someone hot and evil, and hot because he is evil. I guess we can go with Ian Somerhalder. Mostly because I should really get back to sleep right now.

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Quickies: Help! I’m a Prisoner in the Library!

Or Home Alone for Nerdy Kids. This is a quickie because I haven’t actually reread it. I’ll try to summarize from memory and then you all can fill in the blanks. Two sisters, somewhat whiny, are on a trip with their parents and they stop at a small time library. While looking around, the library closes with them in it. And this is scary? Imagine being locked in a library with nothing to do but browse all the books with no one to bother you? I am sure that for 98% of us reading, that sounds like heaven.

Instead of freaking out, for some reason I remember them dressing up in prairie clothes and sitting on a covered wagon with life sized paper mache people to pass the time. What? Why? Eventually they find that an old woman lives upstairs at the library and she almost dies but they save her.

I also remember these sisters being extremely high maintenance and annoying. And they are always finding themselves in trouble. I think there is a sequel in which they are almost beheaded at an amusement park.

Thoughts?

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.

The Popularity Plan: Not so much of a plan, more of an unrealistic delusion

Is the plan a mathematical one? Are those the digits of Pi?

Hey you guys, I’m Frannie. And this book is the incredible true story of my amazing life! You won’t believe it! So, for a lot of my life I was super shy and couldn’t talk to boys! How am I supposed to get a boyfriend that way? Well, my gaggle of girlfriends are really popular and one day that decided they’d had enough! That’s when we put the plan into action! They gave me a list of sure-fire things to say to boys that would make me popular! On Monday, I had to drop a pencil. On Tuesday, I had to ask someone about the homework. On Wednesday, I had to call a boy to ask him what the English assignment was. On Thursday, I had to give a boy a blow job in the janitor’s closet. Boy, getting a boyfriend is hard work!

But the final nail in the coffin of popularity was when I showed up at the dance in a really pretty dress! Suddenly everyone wanted to dance with me. In fact, that next week, I got so many dates I had to pin up a big calendar on my wall to keep track of them all! I guess looking pretty actually worked better than talking to boys. Isn’t that the opposite of what was supposed to happen? Who cares? Oh, and Mom and Dad were being really square. They weren’t letting me go out every single night! Ugh. They just don’t understand what growing up is all about.

You know what? Being popular is not as easy as it looks! I go out with all these boys but I don’t have any fun! All Ricky wants to do is watch football. All Bobby wants to do is dry hump at the drive-in. But Ronnie…oh Ronnie! He’s so artistic and sensitive. He won’t talk to me. Am I not popular? What the fuck? Why doesn’t anyone underaaaand meeeee?

Oh, but wait! It turns out Ronnie liked me before I was popular and then he thought I wouldn’t like him when I was going out with all those jocks! So the popularity plan actually backfired! Oh, my wacky little life!

Lesson learned: being popular is not everything. Except when you are popular. Except don’t be too popular.

Mary Kate and Ashley soar to new heights of horrificness

Knowing that I like crappy teen fiction, my bff Erin got me a whole bunch of MK and A and Full House: Michelle books from a thrift store. I mean, really? Erin, I have standards. Jeez.

So somewhere in between when they uttered “you got it dude” on Full House and when they became anorexic coke addicts in Manhattan, they were massive money makers with books and furniture and dolls. Seriously, I don’t see the appeal. Furthermore, these books were written by mental patients in Romania. And you thought Sweet Valley plots were bad. I can’t even find the words to summarize it, so I’ll just show you the scanned pages.

The FUCK? That is the most contrived plot device ever. How fucking convenient! THEY are in a band with those exact same requirements. And what town has a child band play at a benefit concert! And Mary Kate and Ashley run a detective agency for their town. And they have actual clients? And they call the newscasters a “man newscaster” and a “woman newscaster”?

And while we are on the subject of then Olsen twins, how did they make so much money? What the hell is the appeal to tweens? Furthermore, they had their own production company, and they write all their own movies. How did anyone let that happen? Ok, here’s my sick confession: I’ve actually seen some of their movies. WHAT! I have a sick fascination with utter crap. I can’t help it. The plot is always the same:m the twins give themselves some “sophisticated” names like Riley, Chloe, Madison, Charli. And then devise plots where they are charmed by cute men. And overcome some sort of problem. And visit some exotic location. And have a montage. And are discovered as upcoming fashion designers or some shit like that. If you are some sort of masochist, you should check out When In Rome. What? I’ve conveniently included the first two parts. Watch at your own risk.

Ugh. The really bad jokes. The line up of introducing themselves. Mistaking the boss for a waiter. Serioulsy, my preteen book about models on a cruise was better than this script. Hey I had FORESHADOWING! And SYMBOLISM!

And don’t get me started on Holiday in the Sun. They solve an international jewel thief mystery, find boyfriends and find time to splash around at the water park. Check out a pre-Transformers Megan Fox at the 5:55 mark in the ROLE OF A LIFETIME.

I hate myself.