Rowell’s sequel (Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva, 2010) about a soap-opera diva and her cast mates parodies the real deal with cookie-cutter characters, bad subplots and cheesy dialogue.
Calysta Jeffries, star of World Broadcast Company’s The Rich and the Ruthless, is back on the set after a stint in rehab, but it appears she’s more popular with the viewing audience than with some members of the cast and crew. Racist co-executive producer Stanley Mercury and Edith Norman, president of daytime television, really have it in for her. They engage in a plot to add a little spice to the show and make the actress’ life uncomfortable by hiring Calysta’s 18-year-old daughter, Ivy, to portray her long-lost daughter on the soap. Calysta doesn’t self-destruct, but mother and daughter knock heads on a regular basis, and Ivy becomes a diva both on and off the set. Plenty more is happening with the countless other characters who are part of Calysta’s life, and they pop in and out of the story so many times it’s hard to keep them all straight: An associate producer who’s married to one of the soap’s stars becomes involved in art forgery; Max Gardner arrives on the set, and sparks fly between Calysta and her new assistant director; Calysta’s grandmother, a stable influence in her life, falls ill; Shannen Lassiter, yet another soap star, becomes upset with a storyline that has Ivy stealing her Latin boyfriend, Javier, who’s also her boyfriend in real life. A veteran of the soap scene, Rowell swoops back and forth between snippets of scripts, first-person observations and third-person narration with such dizzying abandon, it’s hard not to suffer whiplash.
But like the soap operas it lampoons, the book offers readers an escape from reality, at least for a short time—and anyone prepared to overlook the author’s quirky style may enjoy it for that alone.