An over-the-top rags-to-riches story set in 1930s Hollywood.
Lucille O’Malley and her family are just barely scraping by on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Her father is debilitated by physical and emotional injuries sustained in World War I, so her mother has abandoned a teaching career to launder the delicates of wealthy women. In a far fancier neighborhood across town, Freddie van der Waals is regretting his entire lavish life to date: everything looks right and feels wrong, including his glamorous new fiancee, Violet. When Freddie discovers the shrewd villainy that’s powered his father’s business success, he abandons wealth and ease for a life on the road. The same night, Lucille witnesses an alleyway murder and, for her silence, is granted an opportunity to become a film star. In alternating, coincidence-laden third-person chapters, the renamed Lulu Kelly and Freddie embark on opposite journeys—she toward luxury and success, he toward near starvation—and meet in Los Angeles, their fates intertwining when Lulu becomes the chief suspect in a shooting on a set where Freddie is an extra. This pair of highly self-possessed, thinly developed white teenagers falls in love and solves the mystery, against a backdrop of Hollywood intrigue featuring historical figures like gossip doyenne Louella Parsons and early it girl Clara Bow.
The contrived plot and one-dimensional, outlandish characters broadly mimic, rather than evoke, the rich 1930s setting. (Historical mystery. 12-15)