In what could have been an escapist fantasy romp, E! Entertainment Television chief news correspondent Baker delivers a tepid Hollywood romance.
The protagonists are Josie, a 14-year-old California tomboy, and Peter Maxx, a 16-year-old Justin Bieber–like teen idol. Josie and Peter overcome the odds, their frenemies and their own anxieties to find chaste true love and a reliably tidy ending. Whole paragraphs of journalistic exposition befit Baker’s reportorial background but translate awkwardly to narrative fiction; the stiff third-person narration is too distant to make Josie and Peter’s alternating perspectives feel authentic. A relentless stream of pop-culture references (Coldplay, TOMS shoes, Formspring) feel less like real teen dialogue and more like an adult straining for relevance, anchoring the story to a very specific period in time that might render it already passe among trend-spotting teens. Baker’s access to entertainment titans has given him much to draw upon in his descriptions of the lonely life of a teenage star, but the story’s stale arc might be insufficiently compelling to hook readers not suffering from Bieber fever.
Intriguing premise, flawed execution. (Fiction. 12-16)