A debut roman à clef from the wry perspective of a celebrity assistant.
A proud third-generation Hollywood resident, Jess has a well-honed ability to see through the endless layers of LA bullshit and render the revelations in sarcastic bons mots. At the same time, she's just as susceptible to the power of celebrity as any average American. In the course of the book, she manages to land two ascending assistantships, first for an nonfamous but successful movie composer, which she then leverages into working for Eva, soap star on the rise. Being Eva’s personal assistant gets Jess the fame and fortune contact high she so craves. Of course, it comes with complications, and not just the type endemic to celebrity assistantships (being essential but disposable, meeting ludicrous demands). Eva is the best friend of Jess’ friend Scout. Eva is also a potential rival of Jess’ best friend, Megan, a hardworking actress. Add Jess’ mother to the mix, newly arrived in LA and representing a damaging legacy of being alternately absentee and narcissistic, and Jess is living in her own soap opera, largely of her own making. Like many novels of this genre, a traditional plot arc is substituted with a series of vignettes, many of which seem added just for fun. And they are fun—gossipy scenes and high-living details, loaded with specificity. Jess’ sardonic views are not limited to Hollywood; she's equally effacing about herself but doesn’t seem to have the same ability to peel back layers and discover the genuine, independent person striving right below the surface. Though tensions pile up, the novel falls short of a satisfyingly cathartic resolution.
Mahin’s writing is more thoughtful than a gossip blog and occasionally delivers something poignant or lovely but inclines toward voyeuristic pleasures.