Thursday, 23 June 2016

My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

(I was kindly sent a digital copy by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

This book follows Anna, who after deciding she's had enough of mundane life, steals a credit card and books herself a ticket to Los Angeles. During her summer in Hollywood, she moves in with her actress sister and soon gets offered the role of researching the Manson girls for money. 
I went into this book without high expectations, what drew me to it was the fact that we had a teenage protagonist researching the once teenage Manson girls. I must point out early on that this book doesn't really have a plot, it is more the story of Anna's summer in Hollywood and discovering that the city isn't all that it seems. Whilst researching the infamous Manson girls, she begins to understand connections between them and herself as they were once her age. That's the moral of this story, in my opinion, teenage girls and their complexity. 
There is a romance element but it isn't the centre of the story, it flows along with it and even ends with an ambiguous ending. Jeremy was a nice character and I enjoyed his relationship with Anna, he represented the truth behind 'child-stars' and that there life isn't all fame and glamour. I really enjoyed Anna as a character which I didn't expect as she is only fifteen years old. Sometimes the author can depict them as being too immature and naive but Anna has the perfect balance, she is curious and skeptical. One of my favourite themes was Anna despising the fact that Charles Manson and his cult are the only ones whose names we remember. Other than the famous Sharon Tate, the victims names were lost to history. Why do the killers get fame when it is the victims that should be mourned and remembered? She also states that the only reason Sharon Tate is known is because she was a beautiful actress, only used for her looks. I think it is so refreshing that a young female character makes this connection.

'Sharon Tate was just a name, or a beautiful blonde, or an actress, or the wife of a director, or another woman who really became famous only when her life was over. When she went from being a body on a screen to a body in a bag. I wanted the movie to bring her to life, but the camera seemed intent on making her nothing more than a beautiful face and a banging body. It didn’t seem fair, not to her, at any rate.'

I really enjoyed the secondary characters. Anna's big sister Delia who is obsessed with her image and becoming a famous actress, their two mothers who handle everything wrong but in the end are just human, Dex who was just a decent guy and all the others. They all managed to have their own voice and their own story. Having it take place in L.A was an excellent choice because despite never visiting there myself, I refused to believe it was as perfect as everyone seems to think it is. Every town has its secrets and history. 

'I thought about the Manson family, driving around with blood on their hands, and how in Hollywood, you couldn’t tell the killers from the actors. If there was a stranger place on earth, I didn’t know where.'

Overall, I loved this book. The only reason I didn't give it the full five stars is because I wish it was longer and had a more detailed plot. However, the story carries itself without twists and turns. It is the story of Anna, of her growing up and the parallels between the Manson girls and modern teenagers. We all start somewhere. We find out about them before Charles Manson - the fact that they had their own identity before him. The ending was perfect to the story in my opinion. It ended openly and we can allow ourselves to image what Anna does next. I entered a different world whilst reading this book and I would definitely recommend it.

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