Sunday, August 27, 2023

Today's read... Followers by Raziel Reid

Happy Sunday! I'm smiling today, not only thanks to the read I ran across, but also thanks to the cooler temperatures. I live in one of those areas, where we've been on the verge of hitting record levels for almost two weeks. So, I'm cold dreaming and glad to get a break for, at least, a few days. The heat did have a positive side. It kept me indoors with a little more time to read. 

Today's book caught my attention thanks to the cover and the blurb. Isn't amazing how even simple things can be so grabbing? Or maybe, it's because the cover is simple and packs a punch with only a detail or two. Anyway, let's just dive in and see what today's tale holds...

by Raziel Reid
Tundra Books
Young Adult Contemporary
336 pages

A naïve teenager is thrown into the high-stakes, back-stabbing world of reality television in this gossipy, satirical romp, perfect for fans of reality TV.

After a disastrous date results in her arrest, sixteen-year-old Lily Rhode is horrified to discover her mugshot is leaked on a gossip website. Lily is the niece of Whitney Paley, a Hollywood housewife and star of reality show Platinum Triangle , a soap-opera-style docu-series in the vein of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and The Hills , revolving around several glamorous families living in the Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Holmby Hills neighborhoods of Los Angeles.
     When Lily's mom kicks her out of their trailer home in the Valley, Whitney (Lily's mom's estranged sister) invites her to live with her, her movie-star husband, Patrick, and their daughter, Hailey. Lily is set up in the pool house and thrust into the company of reality-star offspring -- kids who are born with silver spoon emojis on their feed. Lily's cousin Hailey and the other teens have lived their entire lives on camera and are masters of deception, with Hailey leading the pack.
     As Lily learns from the Paleys how to navigate her newfound fame, she finds herself ensnared in the unfolding storylines. What Lily doesn't know is that she's just a pawn being used on the show to make the Paleys look sympathetic to viewers while distracting from on-set sexual misconduct rumors surrounding super hero dad Patrick Paley . . .
     Is Lily safe under Patrick's roof? Or will Lily be Patrick's downfall? If she isn't destroyed by Hailey first. When Lily catches the eye of Hailey's designated leading man Joel Strom -- it's war!

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Drama hits extreme heights in a tale, which sinks into the rich, back-stabbing, and dirt of Hollywood and social media dreams.

Lily's life isn't exactly star-studded, but that's fine. She does her best by working a summer job to pay the rent for the trailer her mother and her stay in...well, when her mother is there...and gets by. When Lily misjudges a situation, she finds herself facing trial for grand-theft. With her entire life threatening to shatter, possible hope arrives as her extremely rich and famous relatives step in. Lily will make the perfect addition to their popular, real-life show and help slide her aunt into a much better (and needed) light with the fans. Lily has no choice but to go with the flow, and of course, finds herself in way over her head thanks to the constant manipulation of the rich and famous crowd. That the male lead at her cousin's side takes an interest in Lily doesn't help matters, either. But it might be Lily's own heart which causes could ruin everything.

This is a cleverly done read and dives right into a nasty war for ratings, all swirling around a real-life drama show. The setting snuggles into the lives of rich and famous Hollywood families, who swim in extravagance and will do anything to remain in the spotlight of attention. It exposes the dirt and sludge needed to hold up the superficial glimmer and shine. The tale is told from many different points of view, letting the reader grasp a bit from everyone involved, while still concentrating on the main characters. Each change of view holds its own chapter with the person's social media name at the top to keep confusion at bay. Then, there's a follower number, which changes (or doesn't change) as the tale runs its course. After that, there's a short section of fan's recent comments to that character. All of this sets the atmosphere and adds the right hints and nods before each chapter starts. 

The story itself gets gritty, gritty, and gritty. There are more than a few triggers surrounding eating disorders, self-harm, suicide attempts, rape, violence, drugs, and much more. None of this hits deep descriptions, letting them happen with mentions and moments. But then, there's no time for that. The plot hits like a whirlwind from all directions, grabbing and twisting and turning to make it hard to put the read down. There is tons of scheming and horrible secrets, all used as stepping stones to up the ratings. It keeps the reader guessing the entire way through, while also promising the tension remains high.

It is an engaging read and well-worth picking up, even for those who aren't huge contemporary fans (like myself). There are some problems with the depth of a few characters, a couple confusing side-plots, and a few resolutions feel light, but that was due to the sheer quantity. There are quite a few characters involved and individual issues. A few less would have been more. Despite these stumbles, it is an engaging read and had me in my seat for an entire sitting. The ending seems to promise a book two, and if there is, I will be picking it up to see what happens next.

All about the author...

RAZIEL REID’s debut young adult novel, When Everything Feels Like the Movies, won the 2014 Governor General's Award for English-language children’s literature, making them, at 24 years old, the youngest ever person to win the prestigious award. When Everything Feels Like the Movies is inspired in part by the 2008 murder of gay teenager Lawrence Fobes King. It was the first YA novel selected for inclusion on Canada Reads in 2015, where it came in second place. It was also nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult Literature, and for Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award. Published by Atom Books in the UK, The Telegraph listed it as one of the best YA novels of 2016. Raziel’s second novel Kens was named by Publisher’s Weekly as a favorite YA book of 2021, and their third novel Followers was nominated for a 2021 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Raziel lives in Vancouver.

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