Charlie Outlaw is a television celebrity who has problems. He’s said some extremely honest (and therefore embarrassing) things in an interview, angering the showrunner, his fans, and most of all his girlfriend Josie Lamar, who ends up dumping him over it all. Charlie decides to escape by going on a vacation on a far-away tiny island when he finds that he has real, serious problems, namely that he is kidnapped, unsure if he will ever make it out alive.
The book ensues with parallel narration, going back and forth between Charlie and Josie as they remember their past together and the current situations they both are in. Josie is also a celebrity, although her peak has come and gone, as she was the star of a huge cult show 20 years ago (I imagined her as Sarah Michelle Gellar from Buffy). This book has so many interesting insights on being a celebrity, from interreacting with fans, auditioning, the costs (literal costs, such as how much publicist and stylists charge), and the stress of fame, that I was convinced that Stewart was perhaps a celebrity I had never heard of. Turns out she’s not, but she did extensive research on sets, watching auditions, and interviewing casts and crew, but she could have fooled me. I loved learning about the insights of being an actor, the sincerity and practice of it all, as well as the techniques actors used to fulfill different role types. I have always been aware that acting is difficult, but I had never really considered how it is done or what that experience would be like, and putting myself “in the actor’s chair” was the best part of the novel for me. Stewart is also very good at thinking through emotions, showing the complex way each person feels and how that drives their decision making and reactions.
The story-line is very much character driven, so it’s good that both Charlie and Josie are extremely likeable and sympathetic, their back-stories tying into their current situation as they recall the highs and lows of their relationship. At first the book reminded me a lot of Maria Semple’s books, but then with the kidnapping the story-line turns, well a bit dark at points. While the take on celebrity is novel and very fresh, the story itself moves a bit slowly, doing a thorough job of really fleshing out the characters and their relationships with each other. I would recommend this to someone looking for a new take on a love story, with interesting, realistic, insightful and sympathetic characters, and definitely someone interested in life in Hollywood.
Published on: March 27, 2018
I read this as: A NetGalley ARC