A critically acclaimed child actor struggles with her insecurities, a fame-hungry momager, and a demanding director.
Twelve-year-old Joss Byrd is Hollywood's latest sensation, a “scrappy,” "wise beyond her years" young white thespian in the Dakota Fanning and Tatum O'Neal mode. On the set of ambitious director Terrance Rivenbach's gritty autobiographical coming-of-age drama, The Locals, Joss has trouble balancing her personal and professional lives. Secretly dyslexic, Joss needs her on-set tutor to skip regular lessons and help her memorize continuously revised lines. Complicating things, Joss harbors a crush on her 14-year-old screen brother, is frightened by the method co-star who plays their abusive stepfather, and is unhappy with disturbing scenes added to the script. Meanwhile, single mother Viva, who’s lost most of Joss' previous earnings, openly flirts with the married director. Through her thoughtful, unconfident main character, the author, a private tutor for school-aged actors, realistically pulls back the curtain on the difficulties professional child actors face. Unfamiliar readers may be particularly curious about O'Neal, Joss' oft-mentioned acting muse, and her unforgettable performance in Paper Moon. Although the young protagonist makes the story seem exclusively for middle graders at first glance, sympathetic Joss' journey delves into themes like living with learning disabilities, dealing with celebrity culture, sexual precocity, and understanding the difference between actors' public and private selves, broadening its audience.
Engaging behind-the-scenes look at a lonely young Hollywood star's tragedies and triumphs. (Fiction. 12-16)