Starstruck

 
Fun mix of teen actresses, mystery in Golden Age Hollywood.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Starstruck is set in 1938 Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Author Shukert name-drops classic film stars, producers, studio heads, and famous locales, but her historical accuracy is spotty. She should have done more research on how the studio system worked (actors and actresses had less choice in what studios they could be loaned out to than she leads readers to believe). And there are numerous anachronisms: One character uses hot rollers, which weren't invented until the 1970s. Another refers to Hollywood as La-La Land, a term not used until the 1980s. A minor character uses a golf cart, though golf carts didn't come into general use until the 1950s (in the '30s they were used primarily by the disabled). Even the origin of the word "starstruck" (used by a character as well as in the title) dates back to the 1960s. 

Positive messages

The biggest message is to follow your dreams, even though you may get disullusioned along the way. There are also positive messages about friendship and love, gender roles, standing up for yourself, and struggling to find yourself without conforming to what society expects of you.

Positive role models

All the girls in the novels have their strengths and weaknesses. But the one who stands out as being a positive role model is Margaret. She's naive and lost in her new role as an actresses for Olympus Studios, but readers will cheer for her ability to balance friendship, love, and life while following her dreams. Amanda is another interesting character who has a sordid background and stands up to the people who try to wrong and blackmail her.

Violence

One of the teen characters is slapped by an adult, and another character mentions she was physically and sexually abused by her stepfather.

Sex

Starstruck alludes to sex, but never shows it. Amanda was a former prostitute, although she uses the word "escort." There are some mild flirting and kissing scenes. Two males are shown in bed together.

Language

"Bitch," "crap", "prick," "assh--e."

Consumerism

Characters go to famous Hollywood restaurants, stores, clubs (no longer in existence), such as The Brown Derby and the Cocoanut Grove (that's how they spelled it).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A lot of smoking and drinking by both adults and teen characters.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Starstruck is the story of three teen girls who are trying to make it as actresses in the late 1930s, during the Golden Age of Hollywood. One is a former "escort" and lived in a brothel, another is disowned by her parents, and the third has a controlling mother and is forced to take pills to control her weight and insomnia. There's mild violence (a slap) and swearing ("bitch," "crap", "prick," "assh--e"). The majority of the characters (both teens and adults) drink and smoke. There's mild kissing and discussion of sex and homosexuality.

Kids say

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What's the story?

When Margaret Frobisher, a 17-year-old Pasadena girl who dreams of being actress, gets a contract with the fictional Olympus Studios in 1938 Hollywood, her world changes forever. She makes friends with charming Gabby Preston and bad girl Amanda Farrady, and quickly discovers that while Hollywood is definitely the glamorous place she's read about in magazines, it's also where dreams can be made and destroyed in the blink of an eye. Told from alternating viewpoints of teen and adult characters, Starstruck follows the three teen girls as they encounter fame, fortune, love, and heartache.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Starstruck is good fun. It's quite charming and readers will quickly fall in love with main character Margaret, as well as Amanda, and Gabby. It's a coming-of-age story, but it also has romance, revenge, and a little bit of mystery. Historical fiction is all the rage now, so it's fun to see something set during the Golden Age of Hollywood. The writing is good and the story moves by quickly. However, the author's historical research could have been better, especially on items and terms used during the era and how the Hollywood studio system worked. And the way homosexuality is discussed is too progressive for the time. It would have been more accurate to show how much it was covered up and denied.

Author rachel Shukert obviously created backstories for her characters as homages to the lives of Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, Gypsy Rose Lee, and a little bit of Judy Garland thrown in for good measure, but she doesn't do it effectively. In any case, the allusions may be lost on today's teens who haven't heard those legendary Hollywood stories. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the Golden Age of Hollywood and classic film stars. Would you watch any movies from this era?

  • What do you think about how the movie studios in the 1920s exploited their stars, controlling every facet of their lives, including their private affairs -- covering up and making up stories, including fake romances? How would you deal with that?

  • Margaret struggles with choosing what she wants -- love or fame. Does she make the right choice? What would you choose?

Book details

Author:Rachel Shukert
Genre:Historical Fiction
Topics:Arts and dance, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Delacorte Press
Publication date:March 13, 2013
Number of pages:352
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Hardback, Kindle, Nook

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Educator and Parent Written bykatieveronica April 15, 2013
age 13+
 

The Reviewer Here is Inaccurate

I loved this book. It's witty, glamorous, fun, and surprisingly poignant. I think it's absolutely appropriate for older teens. And I have to say, as a drama teacher and someone who went to film school, I totally disagree with the idea that Shukert's research is somehow inaccurate--it absolutely jives with what I know of this era. As for the homosexuality issue, while the characters themselves are relatively accepting of it, the studio system is not--a huge plot point revolves around covering up a star's homosexuality, and the anguish this causes him and others around him. So I don't know what this reviewer is talking about there!

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