Hello, Sunshine

Book review by
Nayanika Kapoor, Common Sense Media
Hello, Sunshine Book Poster Image
Quirky, well-written tale of aspiring teen actress in LA.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teaches about the ins and outs of the theater and acting business, though not always realistically.

 
Positive Messages

Be persistent and follow your dreams. Going after what you want takes a lot of hard work and struggle, but it can be worth it. Embrace yourself and your strengths, and don't try to fit someone else's mold. Reflect on your emotions and understand why people might be acting a certain way. But might also encourage jumping into unrealistic situations with no plan.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Becca is naive about moving to LA with no plan, but she's mostly thoughtful and smart. She's also resourceful, resilient, hardworking, and empathetic; she'll do anything to help friends in need. She's impractical with money but takes responsibility for mistakes and expenses. She lies to her mother, with no consequences. But in the end, ambition and kindness are her defining characteristics. Marisol and Raj are hardworking, loyal, and ambitious. Becca's mother is supportive, and their relationship is close; she encourages Becca to be practical.

Sex

Characters kiss. Teen girl has a one-night stand to get over her ex-boyfriend and has sex with one of her best friends. Discussion of previous sexual relationship. A stranger comes up to characters and asks, "How come my girlfriend won't let me eat her p---y?" Becca looks at pornography in another character's bathroom. References to a "sugar daddy" and prostitutes.

Language

Frequent strong language, including "f--k," "ass," "bitch," "bulls--t," "douche," "p---y."

 
 
Consumerism

Several brands are mentioned, including IKEA, Target, Old Navy, Instagram, Uber, and many car brands. Becca uses Instagram with the intent of looking perfect and making others jealous.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Underage characters drink and are served alcohol on several occasions -- including vodka, champagne, wine, and other drinks -- with no consequences. Alcohol is presented as something that makes teens feel like adults. Becca has a "signature drink." Adult characters smoke cigarettes, and Becca says she smoked one when she was stressed. One reference to people smoking marijuana.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Leila Howland's Hello, Sunshine is about a teen who moves to Los Angeles to try to become an actress after she doesn't get into any of the colleges she applied to. Becca Harrington must confront the realities of moving to a new city by herself, tackling money problems, getting over her ex-boyfriend, and trying to land an agent. Strong language is fairly frequent, including "f--k," "ass," "bitch," and "bulls--t." Characters kiss, the main character has sex on two separate occasions, and in one scene she looks at pornography. Alcohol is approached casually, and underage characters are served drinks on many occasions.

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What's the story?

In HELLO, SUNSHINE, Becca Harrington is the only student at her elite prep school who's not going to college. Reeling from her Juilliard rejection and an unexpected, harsh breakup with her boyfriend, Alex. Becca sets out to fulfill her dream of becoming an actress. She starts her journey in LA with a list of goals, including furnishing her apartment, getting back together with Alex, and making it in Hollywood. Becca must overcome grueling waitressing jobs to pay her rent, as well as constant rejection from agents while trying to pursue her passion and prove to herself -- and the rest of the world -- that she's good enough. With help from her best friends, Marisol and Raj, Becca copes with failure, insecurity, and heartbreak while paving her own path.

Is it any good?

Author Leila Howland's beautiful writing makes Becca, her story, and the city of Los Angeles come to life. With descriptive details about every corner of the city, Hello, Sunshine, reads like a love letter to LA from Becca's unique perspective -- much like a YA novel version of La La Land.

While Becca's initial plan seems naive, she eventually proves herself to be persistent, intelligent, and incredibly endearing. Though parts of the novel may seem unrealistic, Becca's charm and the quirky details incorporated into the plot turn this classic aspiring-actress-in-LA story into something unique and lovable. Teens will be able to relate to Becca's struggles with her appearance and with feeling undesired, as well as her paralyzing fear of failure and heartbreak. The novel includes big messages about love and deviating from a more traditional path, even though the ending is underdeveloped and a bit disappointing. While adults and teenagers will both laugh and be frustrated with Becca at points, her eccentric charm eventually wins everyone over -- both the characters in the book and its readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how dealing with failure is portrayed in Hello, Sunshine. Does failing scare you away from trying things? What are some ways to cope with failure?

  • Do you think that Alex and Becca's relationship was healthy? What about Raj and Becca's?

  • Do you think Marisol was justified in lying about her background?

  • Would you move to a new city to follow your dreams like Becca did? What are some pros and cons of her decision?

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