The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Trust No Agent (Review: Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance; B. Halpin and E. Franklin)

Jenna & Jonah's FauxmanceJenna and Jonah's Fauxmance
Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin
Bloomsbury 2011

Charlie Tracker and Fielding Withers are a teen dream team. Stars of their own hit show, both they and their alter egos Jenna and Jonah live in a whirl of music, makeup and young love – both on and off screen. At least, that's what they're contracted to do. The thing is, Charlie and Fielding really cannot stand each other – their off screen love affair is as fake as Jenna and Jonah's on screen one, and it's getting harder and harder to smile for the camera. With their young audience hooked on their on and off-screen personas, Charlie and Fielding are an endless source of speculation for the gossip mags and lurking paparazzi. When scandal rears it's inevitable head, cracks start to show in their “fauxmance” and they find themselves in hiding with no agents, no cameras and no script.

Of our two narrators, Charlie is perhaps the less accessible. Having literally been on stage since she was in nappies, she's fairly hard-bitten when it comes to the ways of Hollywood. Having sued her parents (who'd sucked her bank accounts dry) she lives as an emancipated minor and is a young lady very much in charge of her own life. Yet this comes at a cost, leaving her with control issues and endless worry for her future. She's not stupid, she knows that her current dream teen status and harbours quiet dreams of a more serious acting career. For all Charlie is a slightly brittle character, there is enough softness written into her narration that when she inevitably warms to the more laid-back Fielding it doesn't seem out of place. My only issue with her was that she often seemed to think one thing and then contradict it with her actions – that would be fine except that there often seemed to be no explanation of this even in her own inner monologue.

Fielding is certainly an easier character to get to know, less challenging and perhaps less compelling than Charlie but often more enjoyable to read. His background is the polar opposite of Charlie's, with his loving mother encouraging but never pushing him to rise above their rather lowly circumstances. He's just as adept at the fame game as Charlie, but has no ambition other than to earn enough playing Jonah to enable him to retire, live on the beach, read books and perhaps go to college. Just as his laissez-faire attitude infuriates Charlie, her controlling behaviour and anxious behaviour irritate him to the point of distraction – although he does seem to harbour slightly warmer feelings towards her than vice versa. Fielding seems to care little about his ability to act and I enjoyed the fact that it seemed to come effortlessly to him, an aspect of his character that again contradicts the less natural Charlie.

The plot of Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance is one of two parts. Charlie and Fielding's initial escape and hideaway at the beach and a second section where they find themselves sent (by their respective agents) to prove their acting ability at some sort of Shakespeare In The Woods event. These two sections are distinctly different in tone and pace and didn't run together particularly well. However, despite the rather awkward join, both are hugely enjoyable. By placing Charlie and Fielding at the beach, the authors allow readers to get to know both characters before progressing the story with the serious-acting plot. The second section of the book also weaves in a lovely, if not so subtle, reflection of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing with Charlie and Fielding inhabiting the characters of Benedict and Beatrice both on stage and in real life. It's charmingly well realised and reintroduced me to a play that I love for both it's humour and romance – aspects that also embody Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance, making the book both hilarious and touching.

Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance, while undeniably light, does look at the various pitfalls of celebrity culture. Charlie's story in particular, hovers around the possible plight of child stars and contrived romance aspect not only seemed perfectly possible but also hinted at media manipulation and exploitation of vulnerable young actors. However, do not be mistaken – this is not a dark nor difficult read. Having read a lot of issue ridden titles recently it was a pleasure to read such a disarmingly charming story that had me laughing out loud. Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance is a whole pile of fun and the quite frankly kick-ass cover is a good indicator of the tone of the book – smart, funny storytelling combined with a wry, if light-hearted, take on the fame machine and our modern day cult of celebrity.   

Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance will be available in the UK on 7th March 2011. Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me this title to review. 


Nomes said…
"Having read a lot of issue ridden titles recently it was a pleasure to read such a disarmingly charming story that had me laughing out loud."

awesome quote. That is why I am often drawn to books like this ~ even from the outset I think I'll probably rate it something like 3 stars ~ but you need books like this that just hit the spot in between more intense reads.

LOVED reading your review and I've pre-ordered this :) I too love the cover for some reason even though I am not a very pink kind of person :)
It's funny because I would normally ignore books like this. With us being constantly bombarded with news and gossip about celeb lifestyle, I often find myself escaping into Paranormal Romance for this very reason - yet, you make this book sound like it's such an effertlessly engaging read with complex characters whose journey and stories are worth getting to know. I'll be picking a copy up! Lovely review Sya!
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