Sunday, July 1, 2012

Between You and Me

Between You and Me
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus
Published by Atria Books
272 pages
Available on
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.
4 / 5 cupcakes

Remember a few years ago when Britney Spears dumped her husband, shaved her head and lost her mind? Remember how the courts instated her father as her legal custodian, rendering her - the mother of two children - a child with no rights? Did you ever wonder what was really going on in the Spears home?

When you read Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus's engrossing book Between You and Me, you might get some answers.

Logan Wade is twenty-seven and struggling to carve out a happy life for herself in New York. She has a high pressure job, a handful of friends, and shares a shoebox of an apartment with another girl. Her boyfriend seems more interested in sex than a relationship. So when her cousin Delia asks her to come to Los Angeles to surprise another cousin, Kelsey, Logan decides to make the trip. But Kelsey isn't just some girl living in LA. She's KELSEY WADE, world famous singer and performer, and she and Logan have not spoken for over a decade.

Kelsey is tended to by Delia, as well as her parents, Andy and Michelle. As the story evolves, we learn that Andy has had substance abuse problems and that while with him, Michelle and Kelsey, Logan was in an accident, the nature and circumstances of which come to light later in the book. Neither Kelsey's parents nor Logan's are happy with Logan's visit, and Logan herself isn't sure it was a smart move. She barely sees Kelsey. In fact, the highlight of Logan's trip is meeting cute guy Finn in a bar and later rocking the headboard with him at his hotel.

But then Andy fires Delia, and Logan is there, and there is a job opening, so Kelsey makes an offer: stay here and work for me. (Later, Kelsey is offended that Logan views this as a job; Kelsey believes Logan is just "there" for her.) Almost before she realizes what she's gotten into, Logan is booking hotel rooms, securing rental cars, helping Kelsey select interview outfits, coordinating Kelsey's schedule, and even drawing her bath for her. But it's a giddy life, being so close to all of that fame, and Logan enjoys it. Sure, the paparazzi are pests, but to be a part of something like Kelsey Wade and to reconnect with her cousin - that's alluring for Logan. Meanwhile, she keeps up her correspondence with Finn, who has an interesting job himself.

What I liked about this book was, well, pretty much everything. I enjoyed seeing how difficult it is to separate yourself as a daughter versus a boss to your parents and how insulating that life is. If you want to know what a personal assistant to a major star does, this book walks you through it. When Kelsey talks about wanting romance, you feel for her. She doesn't have normal relationships, and, after a while, neither does Logan. Through Logan, we see Los Angeles for the perversion it is:
From this vantage point of relentless comparison, I've come to find L.A. disorienting in its proportions, the women having paid more than I can comprehend to look like cartoon caricatures. I wipe my spicy fingers on a cocktail napkin as the producer holding "auditions" in the white leather wing-back returns with his stack of eight-by-tens. If tonight is typical, a stream of nervous beauties will swap out in thirty-minute intervals, their vulnerability palpable. I wonder what his method is. 
At its heart, Between You and Me is about family. How do we define ourselves within our families? What happens when one relative - your best friend - becomes a superstar? What happens when it's your daughter? Should family work for family?

This book also is about finding yourself, and Logan has to undertake that quest. But - and here is where I'm going to have some spoilers, so look away, kids. If you do not want to know the spoilers, then scroll down to where you see the next it of writing. If you do, then highlight the blank spaces and you should be able to read them.

Okay. So Logan sets out to figure out what she wants out of life, but does she? How much of what happens to her is voluntary? In fact, my beef with this book is a big one: why does it take Kelsey firing Logan for Logan to get out of a very toxic (no Britney pun intended) situation? Does Logan learn nothing? Does she grow at all? I know that Kelsey paid for Logan's college tuition under the guise of a scholarship, so perhaps the intention is for Kelsey to be the wiser person in this relationship. She sees that Logan needs help, and she knows that Logan can't get out of her own way. 

This is an entertaining, engaging book. I really enjoyed Logan, up to a point, and I adored Finn. As for Kelsey, she made me think about poor old Britney Spears. Did I judge her too harshly? Were her mistakes her own, or were they the result of her trying to have some autonomy?

And now I'm going to go listen to "Lucky," a Britney song about a girl who seems to have gotten what she wanted, but did she really know what she wanted in the first place?

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