BOOK REVIEW: My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

I'm not normally a big reader of YA fiction, but now and again I'll delve into it. Over the past few months however, I've come across some titles that have been hard to pass up. one of them being My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger, in which a teenager experiencing family issues heads to Hollywood and finds herself researching the girls of the notorious Manson family.

Ever since my younger years, hearing about Charles Manson and the killing spree of his 'family' in the 1960s, I've been intrigued by the girls that followed him, and often found myself interested in how the girls that followed Manson so adoringly allowed themselves to become killers. This is what attracted me to My Favourite Manson Girl - it made for a a VERY interesting plot.

Fifteen-year-old Anna, after some trouble at home in Atlanta, steals the credit card of her mom's new wife and heads to LA to visit her older sister Delia. Delia is a young actress, a star in the making (or so she would like people to believe), living a charmed life in glamorous Hollywood.

Anna's plan is to stay with Delia until her mom ceases being mad, and also until she can pay back the stolen cash for her plane ticket. When Delia's ex Roger, an eccentric film producer, offers to pay her to research the Manson girls for an upcoming movie, Anna can hardly turn it down.

As the weeks pass, Anna spends her summer reading and hanging out on set with the actors of Chips Ahoy! - a cheesy kids' sitcom of which Dex, Delia's new boyfriend, is one of the writers. There she meets Jeremy, star of the show alongside his brother Joshua, and they start to hit it off. However, as her life is going relatively well for a change, Delia's may be at risk - from a stalker who keeps appearing at the house, leaving notes. Delia is secretive about most things in her life, leading Anna to believe that the Hollywood dream she seems to live in may be far from reality.

Admittedly I have mixed feelings about this book. I'll start with the cons: first of all, pretty much all of the characters were awful (besides Dex and Lynette. Jeremy too, maybe). Don't get me wrong, this isn't necessarily a bad thing - this is Hollywood. The book explores the reality behind the glitz. I hardly expected every character to be lovely and sweet. However, Anna herself was incredibly selfish, often mean, generally unlikable. It was just hard to relate to her at all.

Secondly, the plot didn't really go anywhere. I guess I felt that, due to the Manson research Anna was carrying out (I really enjoyed these parts), that the Manson plot would inevitably lead somewhere. But it didn't. Nothing really happened in this book, even though the blurb seemed (to me, anyway) to hint at a bit of a mystery, and I felt a bit let down at the end. It wasn't too compelling either - I found it easy to put down and didn't feel excited about picking it back up again. I'm glad I finished it though.

As for the pros? Well, this book doesn't focus heavily on romance, which is something I really liked about it. It's refreshing in that way. There is no big love story here.

And it's unique. Like I mentioned before, I'm not a big YA reader. But this did stand out as a very different, very real novel. It's not a glam tale of Hollywood life; it focuses on the reality. I did like the idea that Hollywood isn't perfect, that you have to be careful who to trust. Just like the Manson girls; girls who were once normal, who had parents, who went to Homecoming and wanted to be pretty, to be loved. And eventually, they killed for it.

This seemed like a promising read, and there were elements I enjoyed, but in the end it was just 'okay'. However, that's just my verdict. This is one of those books that I'd strongly urge you to check out for yourself.

Rating: 3/5

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