Dew Chanin feels like it is now or never. Always the prettiest in her small town, she’s decided to uproot her daughter, Kip, and move them across the country to Los Angeles so Dew can try to make it as an actress. Trouble is, she tends to get sidetracked by musicians and let Kip fend for herself. And that’s something Kip does well, what with all of the practice she’s had. Dew had Kip when she was pretty young, and sometimes (x 1000) Kip feels like the adult. While Dew sporadically waits tables, Kip has been busy with her camera, taking and selling her pictures so they can make ends meet. So what is there to take pictures of in Los Angeles? Celebrities. Making bad choices. And while Kip would never see herself as anything less than a photojournalist, sometimes she has to pay the bills with a snap or two of an actor in a compromising position.
One night, while staking out her territory among the paparazzi (gross), she gets a picture that no one else sees. That’s her specialty; waiting for the perfect moment and nailing it in one take. This time, her subject is Alex Milne, one of the famous acting dynasty. And instead of thrusting his hand in her camera, he becomes unguarded and open. Kip sells the photo to an agency, which gets it landed on the cover of some huge publication.
Soon she’s bailed out by Alex’s agent, Shari, who makes Kip live with her grandmother, Bay, a former portrait artist who took pictures of Hollywood royalty many years ago. Bay has been asked to choose her best photos for a book being written about her photos, and while Kip is waiting for her court date, she is told to help out.
Meanwhile, Alex is filming in Russia alongside a beautiful yet manipulative actress who’ll stop at nothing to get her picture in the tabloids. And on top of that, there’s a mystery that surrounds Alex’s great-grandfather that nearly ruined his acting career. And Kip wants to get to the bottom of both things.
So?: Ohhhhh myyyyy. Where do I start? I always know it’s bad if I have more than two pages of notes. Sometimes I just start writing all the things that I find irritating, and then it sort-of snowballs from there. Kip is one of those protagonists that things happen to. She’s lucky. Or super-talented, if we are to believe what we are told. She’s hard-working, overly mature (for almost-sixteen), drives around LA without a license, and is always in the right place at the right time. She takes a paparazzi-like shot of a celebrity, and immediately he wants her to take a portrait of him. Because he and his agent see something in her. They just know that Kip can get that awesome pic that no one else can. (And boy, does she; all while manipulating Alex into being furious so she can get that shot, say it with me, that no one else can.) Immediately, and without explanation, Alex is drawn to Kip (even though he is at least 20). Not creepy at all. Oh, and he’s not used to people not falling at his feet. Though he kind of likes it. Of course. There is zero warmth emanating from Kip, and for the life of me, I cannot see any reason that Alex 1) would fall for her and 2) would feel in any way encouraged by her to fall for her.
The writing is stiff and humorless. The narrative comes off like machine gun fire or the dialogue in a noir film. I kept imagining Kip (even the boy/girl name sounds stark and to the point) in black and white and a fedora, talking like a weary private investigator in a dusty, cheap office. She’s also pretty rude and condescending, which I guess is supposed to mean that she’s real and doesn’t fall for just anyone, celebrity or not. To me, she just comes across wooden and vaguely Asperger-y. She really sounds like she’s 45. I assume this is to make her sound mature, but it only serves to make her sound ridiculous. She answers her phone “Kip Chanin” and calls pants “trousers,” for heaven’s sake. Luckily, the lack of parental oversight can be explained because the mother’s a flake and the daughter is super mature. SUPER MATURE. And of course, Kip has never in fifteen years asked who her father is. Until now. Gah. This girl needs to be shaken, not stirred.
I found this book and the characters to be rigid, wooden, stiff, awkward, hollow, empty, dull, lifeless, And I must mention again that Kip is a passive participant in her own life – things just happen to her. Even when she’s insulting. Which she is, a lot. Oh, and the relationship between Kip and Alex. Conveniently, he will be away filming most of the time until she’s 18. What’s the point?
And then my super-huge pet peeve strolls in, practically wearing a hat with a veil and stockings with seams up the leg. NOTHING, and I mean nothing, in this story is resolved. The author obviously spent the entire story opening several cans of worms with no intention of giving any answers whatsoever. “Hey, dollface! It’s a series!” OK, once again I will hand out pointers on how to write a series (also known as “The JK Rowling Method”).
- Every volume needs to have some kind of conclusion. There can (and should) be over-arching story-lines that are present throughout the series, but SOMETHING has to end in every book. Otherwise, people feel like they have wasted their time reading a book in which they will have no answers. It is not mysterious, it is not thought-provoking, it is not all “oooh! I can’t wait to find out what happens in Book #2!” It is frustrating, annoying, sneaky and leads the reader to think that you aren’t playing fair (or making it up as you go along; or have too many ideas for one book and can’t kill your darlings). And, more often than not, they (ie, me) will NOT read Book #2, because, really, how do they know that you aren’t going to play that game again? Very few writers could EVER get away with this, but those authors know better than to try.
- See #1.
The Bottom Line: It’s a resounding “no.” And the cover has nothing to do with the story, btw. Alex Milne doesn’t wear baggy jeans and Keds. Shuh. And the “ending,” with Alex’s brother? No words.
Flash by Barbara Morgenroth was published September 29, 2011 by Dashing Books. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to NetGalley/the Publisher/the Author.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary Romance Mystery Series
Ages: 13 and up