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Starstruck by Rachel Shukert

Starstruck by Rachel Shukert

Starstruck

By: Rachel Shukert

Release Date: March 12, 2013

Rating: 4 Stars

Summary: A golden age of glam . . .

Every week they arrive in Los Angeles–beautiful and talented young hopefuls who dream of becoming stars. It’s all Margaret Frobisher has ever wanted—and when she’s discovered by a powerful agent, she can barely believe her luck. She’s more than ready to escape her snobby private school and conservative Pasadena family for a chance to light up the silver screen.

The competition is fierce at Olympus Studios and Margaret—now Margo—is chasing her Hollywood dreams alongside girls like Gabby Preston, who at 16 is already a grizzled show-biz veteran caught between the studio and the ravenous ambition of her ruthless mother, and sultry Amanda Farraday, who seems to have it all–ambition, glamour . . . and dirty secrets. Missing from the pack is Diana Chesterfield, the beautiful actress who mysteriously disappeared, and there are whispers that Diana’s boyfriend—Margo’s new co-star—may have had something to do with it. Margo quickly learns that fame comes with a price, and that nothing is what it seems.

Set in Old Hollywood, Starstruck follows the lives of three teen girls as they live, love, and claw their way to the top in a world where being a star is all that matters.



Review:

It was one of those nights in Hollywood, the kind that made gossip columnists and newspapermen and the announcers on newsreels say, “It was one of those nights in Hollywood.”

The glamour and magic of old Hollywood may be gone, but Rachel Shukert’s captured the spirit of the era so perfectly, it’s almost as if the Golden Age of film lives on in the pages of Starstruck. My favorite historical fictions are those that feel like magic even though the plot of course calls for no real magic, simply because everything about the subject period, the mood, the atmosphere, the whole works, comes alive as the pages fly by, and Starstruck is definitely such a book. Pure moviemaking magic.

Ok, I have to confess, I’m kind of a film buff. Names like Olivia de Havilland, Katherine Hepburn, and of course Clark Gable mean something to me, but even if theirs create the setting, Starstruck goes much deeper than just a few (famous) name drops. Sure, at its core it’s about three girls trying to make it big, get their names in lights, and the plot when you think about it isn’t so much different than Lauren Conrad’s book of the same name (which I have read, don’t ask), but unlike every other book about girls, fame, and Hollywood, only this Starstruck gives the meaningful insight into a bygone era that qualifies as so much more. And Margaret Frobisher… er Margo Sterling is the best kind of tour guide, because if you want to capture the glamour, tell a story about the movies, well you need a character that reflects the kind of excitement and enthusiasm and energy that’s at the heart of the Hollywood mythos, and hers is an attitude that’s absolutely infectious. Whether she’s excitedly pouring over the pages of the newest issue of Picture Palace, experiencing firsthand the wonder of Olympus Studios that day of her first audition, or even slowly piecing together the dark side behind the fame, I felt like I was there at every moment, and that’s how historical fiction succeeds.

More than that, Rachel Shukert sure knows how to cast a fully immersive spell. It’s not just getting the setting right, making sure the characters are in character, or shoving the anachronisms under the doormat, but it’s like this book lives and breathes 1930s Hollywood. I could approach the effect from many different angles, whether it’s the excitement, the name checking of period cars and designers, perfectly capturing not just the inner workings of a 1930s movie studio, but the atmosphere and tone as well, or even getting the politics of the day just right with characters who are clever reflections of the effects of the then rising Nazism and communism on the movies, but even for those who haven’t watched hours of documentaries on the subject, it’s easy to appreciate that Starstruck is a book that gets Hollywood’s Golden Age. And it’s the little things, Margaret’s father’s rant, director Raoul Kurtzman’s story, that line about the Karps and Goldwyns and the other power players of the movie business not being allowed into the Pasadena Country Club, that really sell it. For a classic movie buff, experiencing all of that is the fun.

If there is a problem, it’s that yeah the plot is still about three would-be starlets trying to make it big in Hollywood. It’s overdone, and Starstruck still follows the same basic pattern of a girl swept up by the glamour before she’s exposed to the dark side beneath the glamour while her not-quite-friends and sometimes rivals deal with their own problems, their stories intersecting at various points. Still, a few things do set Starstruck above the field – Margo’s story, even if overdone, works because hers alone is an exploration of a time most of us can only see in black and white – although she desperately needs a better best friend. And while Starstruck is about Margo, and Gabby, and Amanda, the specter of Margo’s missing predecessor Diana Chesterfield looms over everything, and it works as a reminder that, even as Margo climbs towards fame, something bigger, something from the nasty underbelly of Hollywood, is lurking in the background, waiting for that one slip up.

It’s easy to dismiss Starstruck as just another in a long line of entries starring a trio of would-be Hollywood starlets. It would also be a mistake. Starstruck is really a celebration of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and as a fan, I’m a fan.


Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.

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