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.

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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.

Thanks for Bein’ A Friend…and guest posting

Back in the day, the Baby-Sitters Club show was a straight to video trainwreck. And R.G. Quimby is here to capture it at its finest. Check out more at Little Snarky Two Shoes.

As the theme song swells, we find the ladies chillin’ out max and relaxin’ all cool on the front steps of Stoneybrook Junior High. Surprisingly, none of them acts like they’re high on substances, which might be a first for this show.

As the BSC make their way back home, they pause on the outskirts of the soccer field so that Dawn can resume drooling over her latest crush, a sporty fellow named Jamie Anderson. According to Dawn, he’s the most beautiful guy she’s ever seen, California surfers be damned.

Dawn thinks he’s a hottie with a body and nearly drops her panties on the spot when Jamie wanders over to retrieve a runaway soccer ball.

Later, as the BSC discuss how they’ll be decorating the school cafeteria for the upcoming Sweetheart Dance, Dawn is still in full swoon. After some talk about romantic color schemes, all the girls concede that Jamie (with his soccer cleats and fine-looking bowl haircut) is pretty darn foxy, though for some reason they all think it’s hilarious when Kristy says she might ask him out herself.

Umm…

Yeah, well, anyway. Since we’re talking about the BSC here, snaring Jamie for Dawn has to be some kind of freaking group project. The girls brainstorm ways for Dawn to attract Jamie’s attention, including taking up sports and/or prank calling his house. Ugh. Seriously, between the baby obsession and the unhealthy co-dependency, if I were Jamie I’d stay the hell away from this quagmire.

Like a dutiful step-sister, Mary Anne puts a good word in for Dawn the next day when she picks up li’l Jackie Rodowsky from his soccer practice with Coach Jamie. In addition to the obligatory jokes about how stupid and uncoordinated Jackie is supposed to be (you know, because making fun of ginger kids never really loses its appeal)…

…we also get some useful tidbits of sports advice when Coach Jamie pulls the kids in for a huddle and tells them how the attacking half should use back-passes when on the center mark.

Actually, he just talks about the importance of practice, but I guess we’re supposed to be impressed by his knowledge of soccer or something.

Anyway, Mary Anne’s attempts to seduce Jamie (on Dawn’s behalf, of course) mostly involve giving him info about the BSC and repeatedly mentioning how much Dawn loves children. Because, you know, most guys find that really sexy.

Still, apparently Mary Anne’s PR spin did kind of work. Soon, a new client calls and says that Jamie Anderson provided the reference. The gang takes this as a very good sign, and rightly so, since we all know that most teenage boys will signal their interest by throwing extra work in your direction.

The next day at school, Mary Anne and Dawn bump into sexy-ass Jamie. Soon, MA high-tails it out of there so Dawn and Jamie can make with the googly-eyes. Dawn makes some clever jokes about how clumsy Jackie Rodowsky is (again, because those gags never get old) and Jamie complains about how annoying he is to coach. Somehow, this ginger-bashing ends with Jamie asking Dawn for her phone number.

Sweet!

Jamie doesn’t keep us waiting long for his phone call, either. MA and Dawn are chillaxing upstairs after school when their mother yells that there’s someone on the telephone. Dawn rushes downstairs and immediately accepts Jamie’s invitation to the big soccer game.

Long live Jawn!

For the next couple of days, Dawn’s all freaked out and super-excited about her outing with Jamie. She even takes several hours to get ready for their date, but the results are well worth it:

Jamie arrives and meets Dawn in all her day-glo-spandex-and-big-banged glory, a look almost worthy of Claudia Kishi herself. But, oh noes! Jamie’s all, “Who are you going to the game with?”

And Dawn realizes that Jamie was actually trying to ask Mary Anne out when he called the other day. Buuuurn.

R.I.P., Jawn.

Dawn’s reaction to this is about as objective and mature as you might expect: she runs upstairs and proceeds to treat Mary Anne like a piece of crap for supposedly stealing her man. There was probably a scene where Dawn tells her step-sister that she’s a stank-ass ho, but I’m sure it was cut out due to time constraints.

I’ll skip over the passive-aggressive crap that Dawn does to Mary Anne, her sister and supposed best friend. Let’s just say that Dawn’s suggestion to create a schedule for the bathroom so she and MA can more effectively avoid one another is the least annoying thing that happens.

Meanwhile, in the midst of preparations for the Sweetheart Dance, Dawn also announces that she’s always hated the color purple, mumbling something about heavy-handed social justice themes and an overly simplistic portrayal of race relations.

Anyway, after days of giving Mary Anne the cold shoulder and making life really hellish for the rest of the BSC, Dawn’s bitch-storm finally comes to a climax when she and MA get in a fight over the proper construction of a giant papier-mâché heart.

The two of them struggle to gain control, ultimately breaking the heart into two unusable halves, symbolizing the broken state of Dawn’s emotions as well as the severing of their sisterly relationship.

This show works on so many levels!

Of course, Miss Kristy is not about to let the BSC fall into ruins because of Jamie friggin’ Anderson. She calls an emergency meeting of the Baby-Sitters Club and forces the two of them to talk it out, Dr. Phil-style.

Dawn admits that she really liked Jamie and felt like an ugly hag when he chose Mary Anne. Meanwhile, MA re-states her innocence and tells Dawn that she would never do anything to hurt her. The two of them hug it out as Kristy announces, “No dog ever peed on a moving car!”

Cut to: the Sweetheart Dance, which is in full swing. The decorations look great! Underneath a flurry of papier-mâché crap, all the kids in school are having mini-seizures to the canned 90’s party music.

As soon as they arrive, Jamie Anderson asks Dawn to dance. She enthusiastically agrees and is soon hypnotized by his spastic gyrations.

The show ends with all the ladies shakin’ some booty on the dance-floor just as the theme song starts piping in.

And… SCENE!

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.