Pub. Date: April 9, 2019
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Grand Central!)
Summary: Holly Danner has a complicated relationship with fame. It’s not easy being the only cast member of a 1990s song-and-dance show who didn’t become famous. When she was eleven, she used to do anything for a laugh (or at least a laugh-track) on “Diego and the Lion’s Den.” If she talked about it–which she almost never does–Holly might explain how her childhood best friends came to dominate the worlds of pop music, film, and TV while she was relegated to a few near-misses and a nanny gig for her niece. She’d even be telling the truth about making peace with the whole thing years ago.
But when she finds out there’s a 25th anniversary for the show planned–a televised reunion, clip show, and panel–and she wasn’t invited, it’s time for an impromptu road trip to crash the event and set the record straight. Three problems: she’s currently in Internet Rehab (perhaps she’s not quite as well-adjusted as she believes…), she has no cash, and the only person who can get her across the country in time is Thom Parker, a handsome, infuriatingly level-headed patient who doesn’t think she should confront her famous ex-friends.
Holly Danner peaked at 11. Cast as the plucky, funny one on a Mickey Mouse Club-esque children’s show called Diego and the Lion’s Den (it was never explicitly stated whether or not the children actually lived at the zoo, but it was a theory fans clung to fiercely), Holly’s star shone brightly for those few precious years. After the show ended, things only seemed to get better for her co-stars: boyband fame, record deals, starring roles in television dramas. But for Holly? Well, she was almost in a tv show…until they recast her part one episode in.
Understandably Holly was a bit bitter. Especially because her house was where they would flock to hide from the rest of the world. Her family took each one in and allowed them to simply be themselves away from the prying eyes of cameras and millions of adoring fans. And now the Diego cast is back for a 20th reunion show – without Holly. It was bad enough to have her friends cut her off, but to not get an invite to the reunion show??
Holly is determined to get her revenge. First up: Holly hosts a Reddit AMA, dishing all the behind-the-scenes details and gossip. What Holly didn’t count on, however, was to become so addicted to the Internet – refreshing Reddit and her email, constantly checking her alerts for any word on the cast members – and it’s the opening chapters of Fame Adjacent that introduces the reader to Prevail!, a rehab facility where Holly is currently doing a 6-week stint.
I was born in 1988; I grew up in the midst of the 90s boyband craze, the start of the Internet turning teens into instant sensations, campy kid’s shows that somehow became cult classics. And to hear the story of someone who lived through the fame – and DIDN’T come out on top? Fame Adjacent practically screamed my name. While I did enjoy it and read it in a sitting, now that it’s over I’m not entirely sure I loved it. It certainly wasn’t as gossipy and fun as I anticipated.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t care about Holly. She was bitter, yes, but not in a snarky, witty way that drew me in. The center’s counselor was wildly unprofessional. The cast members were dull. Thom, the love interest, had his moments, but it was hard to root for a relationship to happen when Holly nearly assaulted him one night, all but forcing him to sleep with her despite his protests. I can’t help but think that, had Holly been the one saying no, readers would definitely NOT cheer at their happily ever after.
The entire novel hinged on Holly crashing the reunion. And when that moment finally happens, instead of a big, building climatic scene, it simply fizzles out. She had harbored such hurt and anger at her cast mates for the past twenty years, and when she finally lets them have it…it seemed like it was all for nothing. They seemed to all make up in a matter of minutes (a commercial break during the taping, if I’m remembering correctly), and that was that.
I will say though, that the one thing about Fame Adjacent I enjoyed was the format. Throughout the narrative are bits of the script from scenes of Diego and the Lion’s Den and Holly’s AMA. I really liked these bits and, honestly, would have rather read an entire book in this format instead.
Although Fame Adjacent was a speedy, easy read, I can’t say I truly liked it. It was entertaining while it lasted, but made no great impression – and it certainly not a book I would pick up again. There were moments where Holly’s character all but ruined the book and when her big moment arrives, it left me wanting far more. I appreciated the fun format though – the chapters of scripts and Holly’s AMA were a delight in an otherwise dull and disappointing read.