American Girls – Alison Umminger

Synopsis

She was looking for a place to land.

Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood, and she’s had it with her life at home. So Anna “borrows” her stepmom’s credit card an runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister takes her in. But LA isn’t quite the glamorous escape Anna had imagined.

As Anna spends her days on TV and movie sets, she engrosses herself in a project researching the murderous Manson girls—and although the violence in her own life isn’t the kind that leaves physical scars, she begins to notice the parallels between herself and the lost girls of LA, and of America, past and present.

In Anna’s singular voice, we glimpse not only a picture of life on the B-list in LA, but also a clear-eyed reflection on being young, vulnerable, lost, and female in America—in short, on the B-list of life. Alison Umminger writes about girls, sex, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn’t, in a way not often seen in YA fiction.

Review

For starters, the author’s note really struck a chord with me. This wasn’t really a book about The Manson Girls. It was a book about half-broken dreams, the messes we make, glass houses, dysfunctional families, and self-destructive choices. It is the perfect depiction of Los Angeles. The Manson Girls simply made for a striking parallel. In how many worlds would those murders have been entirely preventable? How far are we —really— from letting our own lives spill out of control like that? This book really provides some good food for thought.

I love reading about the American Dream, so this book was for me. I thought some elements were unnecessarily creepy and sinister (like hopping fences to unknown locales), but I was still interested. Most of the time, I felt sorry for the characters. Anna, Delia, Cora, Olivia Taylor, Doon… the list of the pitiful and broken goes on and on.

There were some bright and shiny moments though. I loved rolling around, listening to unreleased music. Swindling the rich and famous as an unsuspecting poker shark. Jeremy Taylor and Dex, who were too good for the rest of them. I don’t think these qualities redeemed the bad parts, but I think this book was all about letting the horrors unfold.

Related Reading

  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Even in Paradise – Chelsey Philpot
  • Kissing in America – Margo Rabb

Rating: 4/5

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