A bright, prickly teenager struggles to find her place while spending a summer exploring the contradictions of Hollywood, replete with beautiful actors, has-been pop stars, and the specter of the Manson girls.
Umminger's debut novel follows 15-year-old Anna, a smart, cynical white girl who escapes a complicated home situation by "borrowing" her stepmother's credit card to run away to Los Angeles. There, she reunites with her actress sister for the summer and is recruited by her sister's dubious director (and ex-boyfriend) to research the Manson girls for his film project. The more time Anna spends tagging along on TV and film sets, the more she begins to notice the surprising ways in which the subtle yet pervasive emotional violence in her own life and the lives of those around her mirror the personal histories of the Manson girls, who were, after all, once "regular" girls. Setting her tale against the glittery, gritty backdrop of modern-day Los Angeles, the author deftly weaves together multiple story strands to create a razor-sharp commentary on our culture, observed with keen wit from the perspective of one honest and complex American girl.
An insightful, original take on the coming-of-age story, this novel plumbs the depths of American culture to arrive at a poignant emotional truth. (author's note) (Fiction. 14 & up)