I do not read Us magazine, or People, or follow celebrity culture in any way. But there's a level on which you can't be unaware of lives like those of Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears, and you can't imagine them to be anything but hard and sad and lonely.
Well, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus are here to tell you just how sad and exhausting and horrifying it is in Between You and Me. These are the writers who brought you The Nanny Diaries, which is essentially about how incredibly awful rich people are and how they mess up their kids with their selfish shenanigans. That sentence entirely encapsulates this book, too, though it'd be more precise if you put the word "famous" into that sentence somewhere. It almost doesn't matter where.
Logan Wade's got a decent mid-level job and a decent mid-level twenty-something life in Manhattan when she gets a call out of the blue to visit her long-estranged cousin and childhood best friend, Britney Spea...I mean, Kelsey Wade. She finds herself embroiled in Kelsey's exhausting life, including controlling parents, aggressive paparazzi, grueling 20-hour workdays, and petty indignities that you have to suffer with a smile on your face.
It's a "normal" person's view inside the insanity of celebrity life, as well as a very sympathetic account of Britney--sorry, I mean Kelsey!--'s public implosion. Five minute marriages, kids at a young age, messy family relationships, and all in the public eye. But there's so much the public eye doesn't see, because narrative is always neater than life, and the collective narrative of the media leaves no room for messiness. That's the big virtue of this book--it's an excellent picture of the answer to the questions we ask ourselves about other people, questions like "how did she end up in such a mess?" or "what was she thinking?"
This is pretty much always what I'm looking for--a book that takes someone who's completely unlike me and makes me truly understand how they can go about being the way they are and feeling like it makes sense. There are so many factors going into this in Kelsey's life, and the fact that she's actually a talented musician and a pretty savvy marketer are definitely on her side. But the fact that her parents are and always have been A HOT MESS and are all up in her business (literally; they're her managers) and you can see where every bad decision makes sense, where every eager wish she tries to fulfill is going to fall apart, and just why she can't see it coming.
In the end, there are definitely good guys and bad guys. But the grey area that I'm always looking for in characterization is right where it needs to be: Kelsey Wade, America's sweetheart. It really makes you want to take care of her.
(I got this book free for review from Netgalley.)