An 18-year-old associate producer of a website designed to revive a fading teen star’s career recalls its escalating, unintended consequences in this “behind-the-scenes” fiction debut.
Narrator Rhiannon Holte, who’s also listed as the author of this YA novel, meets Anya Allen, former child TV actress, while working at a Hooters-type place in New York. Both are 18, and Anya has been on the skids since Extra Points, a show about gymnasts—“like Glee but with uneven bars”—got cancelled four years ago. The girls quit waitressing to launch makemeover.us, Anya’s idea to recapture the spotlight. Each week, the site posts a new makeover category (clothing, hair, etc.), and fans have 24 hours to post suggestions, then 48 hours to vote on them. Anya will be filmed enacting the winning suggestions, and the site shuts down if she ever balks. Rhiannon “unfortunately” adds another rule—fans come up with the category every four weeks. The site begins nicely enough, with fans choosing an audition outfit, etc., but it soon attracts a huge following as the makeovers expand to plastic surgery. Rhiannon, who hints at her own troubles following the death of a sister, gets caught up in the frenzy. She helps Anya to negotiate a cool comeback part yet also launches a “makeover” campaign to dump Jake, the star’s on-again, off-again rehab boyfriend, who provides first-person commentary several times in this narrative. By novel’s end, a bomb literally goes off; Anya gets increasingly shaky, and the fans bray for actual blood, leaving Rhiannon to step up to fulfill the site’s guarantees. Author Holte (whomever she may be) has created a nifty “reality show” experience, including embedded links to pictures of her characters and to makemeover.us. The narrative is an entertaining, fast read, with Holte ably leveraging the suspense of her site’s countdown rules. This slim novel is a bit light on character development, however, although its somewhat open ending may signal more installments ahead for Rhiannon and crew.
A clever concept novel combining teen angst, social media and celebrity—a promising plot for a new YA series.