Review: Pop Princess by Rachel Cohn

Posted: July 8, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

I was standing in the middle of the local library when it dawned on me: I was taking the Boy Band to the orthodontist for a quick fix and I’d left my e-reader at home. And the book I was currently reading.

I was about to be cursed with year-old magazines or the endless, wordless showings of some nature program set in Denali National Park. I never thought I could ever get tired of that sort of scenery. Two visits ago, I did.

But hey, I was standing in a library, right? Although I’d seen nothing I needed from the adult New Release shelf, I’d found some rock and roll fiction in the Young Adult section as I’d helped the Boy Band search for Artemis Fowl.

Just that easily, I was set. I ran back to the shelf and Rachel Cohn’s Pop Princess was mine.

From the moment I read the first sentence in that waiting room, “My life as a pop princess began at the Dairy Queen,” I was hooked. Maybe hooked isn’t the right word; this was one of those rare gems of a book that I crawled inside of and felt an immediacy with. I connected with Wonder, even though I left being 16 behind a decade or two (but not three. Yet.) ago. This wasn’t a recall of what my own life had been, either. Nope. I was totally there with her.

The plot rocks: a former child entertainment star runs into her sister’s old rock-and-roll manager in the Dairy Queen. He offers to make her into the newest princess of popular music — and Wonder takes him up on it. After all, her family life sucks since the her older sister died. School’s worse. And have we mentioned the summer home that’s now the primary home and its charming habit of dropping parts of the ceiling at inopportune times?

Pop Princess recalls Bling for me — only it does many things right. While Kayla is the same sort of diva we saw in Bling, she’s also more rounded. She’s got a host of good points and she does work for her goals. She may be jealous and insecure, but she leads Wonder down the path smoothly, protecting her at times and pushing her to bigger and better when Wonder most needs it.

There’s more going on here. A lot more. Wonder tries to navigate guys. She loses her virginity, not to a groupie but to a guy she thinks she cares about. It means something to her and throws her into a tizzy. Talk about a very real reaction.

Even her career trajectory makes sense. She hits the very top. She transforms — but she’s not entirely happy with who the record company wants her to be. She’d rather be a size eight and not spend all day working on her dance moves and her voice. She’s loving every minute of this life, but she’s also acutely aware of what she left behind.

There are even some dark secrets she has to face. This may be the part of the book that’s most disappointing because it seems almost brushed over, but that’s okay. There’s still so much more fun going on; this shouldn’t be an issue book. It should be a fun read about a girl working to realize a dream — and then realizing other things, too. Wonder may not have one of those epiphanies where she realizes what’s missing from her life. Rather, she tries things and makes choices. I like Wonder. I hated closing this book and leaving her behind.

That is the mark of a great read. Add in the fact that the music angle rings true, and this is one I’ll be suggesting to … well, everyone.

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