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Friday, November 5, 2010

Review: Relatively Famous by Jessica Park

Change and self-discovery do not happen overnight. But over the summer, it could. At least, that’s what Relatively Famous is trying to imply.

Title: Relatively Famous
Author: Jessica Park
Pages: 284
Source: received copy from author, Jessica Park (thank you!)


Meet Dani McKinley: A typical teen whose world is rocked when she finds out that her father is a famous Hollywood Action star. Now meet Mark Ocean: A self-serving actor with a floundering career who sees that a daughter is just what he needs to reinvent himself as a family man and get back on track. When the two decide to spend the summer together, they must not only wrangle their own love lives, but try to figure out who they really are to themselves and to each other.

Can Dani fit in with this new, fast-moving California crowd without losing herself? With the world at her fingertips and hot boys now after her, staying grounded gets tough. And can Mark drop his egocentric approach to life and learn to appreciate how truly wonderful his daughter is? As driven as he is to get that A-list acting role, he's willing to do whatever it takes to get there, even if it means using his daughter. Or is he...? Mark and Dani's relationship hits a few highs, but the question becomes whether the lows are too much.

The premise offers an interesting plot. A young action star, past-his prime, meeting the long, lost daughter he knew nothing about and the daughter struggling to form a relationship with her dad sounds like a winner, right? Well, sort of. In my opinion, a little more depth, organization, and cohesion would be helpful.

Maybe characterization is key. We know Dani lives with her mom Leila, and her almost-stepdad Alan. We also know that she’s best friends with Sam. We are introduced to her father, Mark who is a Hollywood actor with certain career battles. But that’s it. We are given very little, almost nothing at all, about their innermost feelings and thoughts. We almost feel detached.

It’s hard to feel any sympathy for Dani because, with what little we know of her and how her character is written and portrayed, there’s not much to like. Her personality does not stand out. Her actions are often contradicting and confusing. She blows up and then calms down for reasons not clear to us.

There’s a moment, before Dani left for California that she got mad at Alan for no apparent reason. Even Alan was taken aback. In California, she set Mark up with a florist, Olivia, only to break them up when she found out about Mark’s betrayal. We know something happened in between, but unless it’s written, we won’t for sure.

And speaking of betrayal, this conflict was never resolved. We feel the hurt when Dani overheard her Dad talking about using her for a career boost. She walked away before she can even hear the conversation turn around, with Mark saying he has grown fond of her. Dani acted out, became difficult, and then it just blew over.

There are a few good points, though.

When it comes to descriptions, Jessica Park manages to describe even the most intricate things on certain elements, which is a good thing. The vivid detailing of Dani’s room and Mark’s house makes you wish for the same accommodations. The colorful write-up about the clubhouse Dani and her friends belong to, and the parties that they have feels like you’re standing in the same room with them.

Character development may have been abrupt and vague, but Mark’s transition from a has-been actor to a devoted father will have you tearing up a bit. The effort he exerted during their camping trip was sweet, and the protectiveness he displayed for Dani from the paparazzi is more than any first-time fathers could show. It may be inexplicitly depicted in the book, but we do notice the change. Heck, it was more remarkable than Dani’s. Mark’s relationship with Olivia is also noteworthy. He went from being a playboy to a committed boyfriend.

The book cover works, as it showcases a typical California (Beverly Hills) element, the palm trees. It could use a Michigan touch, but since minority of the book’s setting is set there, it works just the same. The simplicity is in good contrast to the colorful imagery of the book’s contents.

There are a few loose ends that are left hanging and then there are those that feel like “forced resolutions”. It’s as if the author hurriedly resolved the conflicts without regards to the actual process of reconciliation.

There is a slow build-up for subplots, such as Dani hooking up with Nathan, or Mark auditioning for a part in a big-budget film, or Dani’s going-away party. We get excited as it picks up momentum. But it falls short. It fails to deliver an impact.

If Relatively Famous intends to allow us readers a sneak peak of the glamorous California life, it has done its job. In summary, the book is more about Mark getting to know Dani, than Dani getting to know Mark. Eliminating the elaborate romantic subplots for Dani, the story could become a decent, heartwarming father-daughter story that will surely touch everyone’s hearts.

Jessica Park’s first time attempt at YA fiction is not bad, but a few improvements here and there won’t hurt. I’m giving Relatively Famous a 3 out of 5.

My rating

Content (plot, story flow, character):

Okay: Liked, but The Goddess demands more!


Yes - The Goddess Approves!


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