Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: 15 Minutes of Summer

By Jami Deise

There are two types of people in this world: People who love the Kardashians, and people who hate them. And I’d bet a significant subset of people who follow all things Kardashian are hate-watchers, which would put them in the latter camp. It’s not that the Kardashians are any more heinous than other famous families out there. But many people have an aversion toward those who are famous just for being famous. And what kind of person is so needy that their lives aren’t fulfilling unless the cameras are on them?

15 Minutes of Summer gives readers a peek into the mind of someone who’s so desperate to be famous, she violates her own personal code of ethics. It’s the third book in Heather Wardell’s Seven Exes are Eight Too Many series. The last book, Bad Will Hunting, featured one of Kent’s exes, Ashley; this one features his ex-wife Summer, the only woman Exes protagonist MC (yes, you really do need to read the first two books to appreciate this one) really felt threatened by. In Exes, Summer was your basic cheerleader type – gorgeous, outgoing, always smiling, and obviously still soft on Kent. In her own book, her insecurities take center stage: She’s the “stupid one” in a family of geniuses. While this doesn’t completely explain why she’s so enamored of the spotlight, it keeps her from seeming shallow.

The book picks up near where Bad Will Hunting ends, then back tracks over some of the same timeline so readers can see how Summer ended up doing what she did. Unlike "Hunting," in which Ashley comes across as a very unlikeable protagonist, Summer is sympathetic, and her thoughts and actions are mostly understandable. And Wardell gives herself a way out when Summer doesn’t take the most logical action – by establishing her heroine as not the sharpest knife in the drawer, it makes sense when she can’t see her way out of traps of her own making.

After the wrap-up show, the show’s producer makes an off-hand comment to Summer that she could be in the TV business. That sets Summer – who already has a custom swimsuit business that’s taking off because of the reality series – on a quest to make that happen, even though it requires her to work for sleazy Simon and ingratiate herself into the lives of celebrities as she seeks to find the scoop to make her career as a gossip reporter. Of course, the biggest get in reality-TV land is her own ex-husband Kent and MC. Will Summer betray her friends in order to get the career she wants?

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of reality TV (other than the shows on HGTV). In fact, when the movie EdTV came out, I couldn’t believe anyone in America would watch a show about real people living their lives, much less obsess over it. Boy was I wrong. But I really enjoy Wardell’s writing, and I love how she develops her characters. What made Summer so interesting to me, as a fan of the previous two books, was how Summer’s perception of herself was so different from how MC and Ashley perceived her. And frankly, MC does not come across in this book very well. While Summer never disparages her – she’s actually eager for her friendship – MC is a mouse of a person, and the pettiness that bothered me near the end of the first book rears its ugly head here as well. This point is not meant as a criticism of the book, but as a point in its favor. We are all protagonists in the book of our life, and our friends, family and acquaintances the main characters in theirs. How much overlap is there in how we perceive ourselves, and how others perceive us?

I did have a few issues with the book, but they are minor. Wardell spends a lot of time on the details of Summer’s celebrity journalist gig, which meant a lot of made-up celebrities and their exploits. It was hard to keep track of who was whom in fake celebrity world, and I didn’t really care about any of them. Also, Summer seems to have only one friend other than the people from the "Seven Exes" crew, and she’s not a good one. For someone as outgoing as Summer is, I found it hard to believe that she was so isolated. But these are quibbles, and don’t take away too much from the enjoyment of the book.

If you haven’t read the first two books of the series, download them before reading this one. All three together could make for a fun beach-reading weekend. And as for those of us who have read the books, let’s get started guessing which movie title Wardell will use for book number four. Sleepy in Seattle? Nothing Hill?

Thanks to Heather Wardell for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Heather Wardell:


Janine said...

I'm not too much of a big reality tv show fan. I do watch a couple shows. But most, I would rather they not even exist.

Heather Wardell said...

Thank you for the review, Jami, and for those title suggestions too! They're fantastic. :)