Celadon. Jun. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9781250333469. $27.99. F
DEBUT Nineties pop-princess nostalgia drips like honey in Banta’s debut novel. Amber Young auditions for a talent agent at age 10, competes as a Star Search junior vocalist, and joins a new girl group at 17. She longs to be truly heard and for “specific people to listen” as she works to balance her rising popularity, the ups and downs of fame, and public scandal. The music industry and the media both pit Amber against super-talent Gwen Morris and sweetheart Savannah Sinclair while painting her as a rebellious sexpot bad girl. Banta’s novel aptly tackles the sexualization of women and girls in the media, body image, and disordered eating in creating a protagonist who hungers for love and starves for attention, praise, and, literally, food. An ode to the pop superstars of the late 1990s and early 2000s, this novel features an apropos Britney Spears song lyric in the front matter. Headlines, interviews, song lyrics, and liner notes are pointedly woven throughout the narrative.
VERDICT While the novel’s plot points are at times predictable and lack the high drama required for a celebrity storyline, fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid and Brandy Colbert will enjoy.
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