Fashionistas by Sarra Manning

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Fashionistas by Sarra Manning

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Washed-up child star Hadley Harlow is coming to London to start over, but she's in for a bumpy ride as she wakes up to what life in the real world is all about.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: September 2007
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0340932216

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There was a time when I discovered all my new favourite authors through magazine giveaways. Kate Cann was one of these... and Sarra Manning was another. I fell in love with her years ago on a train journey from Vienna to Salzburg. One of her earlier books from the Diary of a Crush series had come free with the latest issue of J17 and I devoured it. Reading about the "decadence" of Edie and Dylan scoffing chips and champagne in a swanky hotel suite had me hooked, and all those years later I can remember word for word some of the passages I read over and over again. Well, that mag may now be defunct, but happily Sarra herself is not, and the writing that got me all excited all those years ago is still whizzing around.

This book, the second in Manning's new Fashionistas series, went to the top of my Must Read pile when I spotted the "Not Suitable for younger readers" disclaimer on the back, and if you've ever read the aforementioned Edie and Dylan books you'll understand why. Those books were rude! And boy, did I love them. However 7 years on and I don't blush as easily. This book was lots of things - funny, intriguing, inspired in places - but it wasn't all that daring, and I struggled to find anything the parents of even a year 7 girl would truly object to. It's a high school book rather than a junior school one, but it's not outrageously naughty.

Hadley, Laura, Irina and Candy are four girls sharing a pokey little apartment in London, all hoping to be Britain's next top model - in career terms rather than in winning-a-reality-TV-show ones. They are, after all, beyond such things. Or rather, have been there and done that already. Laura has already run such a contest while Candy is a different reality show star. Irina is new in town from Russia and Hadley has just arrived from LA where she had a flourishing career as a child star of Olsen-twins proportions until puberty hit and things went haywire. Having just successfully sued her own father for embezzling $17million of her earnings, Hadley has decided to leave town for a bit to get a fresh start. But, as much as she wishes it was, London isn't calling for Hadley. If the stress of moving from her own huge mansion to a shared flat wasn't enough to deal with, it would also appear that no one in the UK really knows who Hadley is, and those that do recall her shows have all heard the rumour that she has died following an overdose. Gone are her dreams of picking up the odd TV guest spot and some starring roles in indie flicks - instead, her new agent can't seem to rustle up much more than a commercial for loo roll where she has to refer to her failing career and [shudder] her bowel habits. And this, for the girl who was the youngest ever Emmy winner and whose replica doll was the best selling toy of Christmas 1998!

Hadley does what any self respecting 18 year old would - she hits the London club circuit in an attempt to boost her star but instead boosts her appearance in the tabloids who just love a good old "Hadley falling over drunk and flashing her knickers" story. Pretty soon she's down and out in London and LA. Add in her publicity stunt boyfriend (who may or may not be gay, but is certainly annoying), a kiss and tell story and a money grabbing mother back in the States and Hadley begins to realise that sometimes you can fall even lower than rock bottom.

This book fits really well into the current culture for obsessing over celebrities and their falls from grace - Hadley could be Lindsay Lohan in another life - and the fish out of water story of her trying to do things for herself for the first time (cooking, cleaning, shopping) is adorable without being over the top. The book is littered with pop culture references as Manning name-checks The OC, Paris Hiltonand Dancing with the Stars among others. Hadley's life could rival that of any soap opera's characters, and yet it seems completely believable because that is what life is like for today's young starlets - right? All parties and PR stunts?

This is book 2 in a series of 4, one for each of the girls. I must confess to not having read the first book, but if this one is anything to go by, they seem to be stand-alone stories with common characters rather than a series where one book builds on the last. Certainly Hadley is the one in the spotlight in this book, with the other girls in supporting actor status. Despite her diva antics, Hadley is quite a likeable girl, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened to her next. I also liked the way the world of a teen star wasn't portrayed as all superficial and fluffy - you even end up feeling sorry for this multi-millionaire at several points, which takes some doing.

I really rather liked this book, even if it is pretty PG. Manning has obviously done her research in this area, because the book tells a life that could be lifted directly from the pages of Perez Hilton. It's sweet and funny and touching and lively. And when Hadley finally makes her life changing decision about where it all goes from here? Well that's marvellous.

With children's and teen books, my (often correct) theory is that books appeal to those a few years younger than the main characters - i.e. 15 year olds might like books about 18 year olds, 10 year olds like to read about 14 year olds and so on. This book is a bit different because although Hadley is 18, I think this book can go more than a few years younger in its appeal, and hit anyone at high school age really (plus their slightly nosy big sisters and/or mothers). I also think there's a divide between US and UK fiction in this respect, and this, being a British author's take on an American teen's life, spans the two. For this reason, for further reading I'm going to go with Good Girls or The Boy Book for the GCSE years and up crowd, Planet Janet for younger girls and The Motherhood Walk of Fame for the aforementioned big sisters.

Thanks go to the lovely people at Hodder for sending in the book.

Buy Fashionistas by Sarra Manning at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fashionistas by Sarra Manning at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Fashionistas by Sarra Manning at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fashionistas by Sarra Manning at Amazon.com.


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