Book Review: Girl Stays in the Picture

October 13, 2009

Girl Stays in the Picture by Melissa de la Cruz is about three girls with varying degrees of fame or access to fame and their adventures in Saint Tropez one summer. Devon’s a television, movie, and pop star; Livia is the formerly overweight daughter of a mega producer; and Casey is personal assistant to Devon’s co-star Summer Garland.

Devon wasn’t used to having a posse of girls she could count on for fun and support. She wasn’t used to having anyone she could count on. How funny that the three of them had become so close; they were so different and came from such different worlds, it was improbable that they ended up being friends.

What I Liked

– I love, love, love the cover of the book. I think it really captures the whole jet set, rich, fancy pants lifestyle the characters are involved in. Devon (for, lo, that is who is represented on the cover) looks like a true movie star, and I totally want to know more about her and her life. She looks exactly like someone who plays to the cameras and is confident and OWNS that. So, yeah, fantastic cover.

– The format. Before each chapter are gossip articles about the girls (mainly Devon), and it’s interesting to see what the rags/websites are reporting versus what actually happens to the characters. I think it’s a great way to introduce that things aren’t always what they appear or seem to be even if you have pictorial evidence. It’s also a good way to introduce the characters (mainly Devon) as both product and persona versus an actual person.

– The characters. I like that the three girls are very different and therefore have different Saint Tropez experiences. As an assistant, what Casey sees is very different from what Devon the actress sees or Livia the producer’s daughter sees. For example, when Casey goes shopping, it’s not for herself, but for Summer. When Devon goes shopping, it’s to pick up a custom dress. And when Livia goes shopping, she can fit the clothes because she has lost so much weight but she can’t feel comfortable in some of them because she still sees pre-surgery Livia in the mirror. So that’s kind of cool. They also all have different homes and home lives. Devon is a recovering alcoholic/party girl living with her formerly famous hanger on mom and her mom’s skeezy boyfriend, Livia lives with her parents and older sister, and Casey is staying with Summer and Summer’s mom.

– The issues introduced. Again, Devon is fresh out of rehab, Livia is post-surgery, Casey is…Casey. I dunno, not a lot going on there with her. But there’s other stuff like that Devon’s mom can be exceptionally cruel, Livia’s family seems to be disappointed that she can’t/won’t eat the food she used to eat, Casey has to deal with the fact that Summer has changed a lot since they knew each other in school. Then there are the boys, of course.  Devon’s ex is also in the business and super competitive. Livia’s boyfriend is hot and shallow, and she is getting closer to her French friend, Bruno. Casey keeps running into Summer’s co-star that Summer is dating. So that stuff isn’t easy.

– The setting. I want to go to Saint Tropez.

– What the book says about female friendship. The point of the book is that these three girls from different worlds and places are able to come together and connect. In the end, they’re all very good friends because they support each other throughout the novel.

– The diversity. Devon and Livia are Not White. And Devon is the teen queen. Bonus.

What I Didn’t Like

– The plotting. Everything happens super fast, and I almost have whiplash from getting from one point to the other. The quote above is EXACTLY where the book lost me. Look, I very obviously am all about female friendship and enjoy stories about said friendship. At the same time, it has to be earned. When Devon is all, “How funny that three of them had become so close,” I am like, “TELL ME ABOUT IT.”  Because, seriously, where did that come from? They went on exactly ONE shopping trip together, talked for a little while, and now super secretive and closed off Devon who is careful not to confide in Livia too much suddenly can count on them absolutely? Especially when Casey works for Summer who is basically Devon’s arch-nemesis. And then a few pages later, Devon is basically like, “Y’all don’t know me!” when the girls try to give her advice.

I don’t have a problem with them being friends or even Devon being excited about having people to hang out with. It just felt completely out of character for her to be able to count on these girls after one shopping trip. Not only that, but there are so few scenes of the three girls actually interacting together that I just don’t buy it. I mean, yes, they do look out for each other and, while off in their separate plots, remark that they should share something with one of the other girls, but they rarely talk to each other, all together. Heck, even one-on-one!  So I’m not buying that.  Why is all of the friendship stuff happening off-page?

– The boy stuff. I don’t mind when books are about romance. But I do mind, again, when the romances feel unearned. And while I think that Casey and Livia’s romantic stuff makes sense, once again, I’m not buying Devon’s. Like I can SEE what de la Cruz is trying to do and the book is predictable enough that I knew where everything was going, but it still didn’t feel earned. Also, please do not try to sell me “WHOO FRIENDSHIP IS ALL WE NEED” and then have everyone partnered up at the end. Boo.

– The issues introduced are never fully explored. Again, great stuff, but it never comes together. I wanted more with Devon and her mom, more with Devon dealing with her sobriety besides “just having one drink” more than once (!!!! – great message to teens there when she is fresh out of rehab), more with Livia and her food issues, and way, way, WAY more with Summer and Casey.

– Speaking of which, Summer was just poorly handled all around. Such a flat villain. Ooh, she’s ambitious AND mean AND petty. Surely, there is a reason that she and Casey were friends before she became famous, right? And, yes, I get it, Summer treats her horribly as an assistant, but there was nothing there at all to suggest why these two were friends or why Casey put up with the bad treatment without saying anything. Summer was just, you know, mean. Even Regina George knew how to make her friends feel special while treating them feel like crap. I’m just saying.

– The back cover. Livia and Casey are on the back cover, and they both look a little too glam. I just felt it was worth mentioning since I lauded the actual cover.

In conclusion: Meh. It was engaging enough that I finished the book, but the flaws way override anything the book has going for it. I am pretty sure this is the first in a series since it’s called “a GIRL novel” on the front and ends with a cliffhanger (which is too stupid to get into), but I’m pretty sure I won’t be reading it. At least, I know I won’t actively seek it out.

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