ARC Review: Unscripted Joss Byrd by Lygia Day Peñaflor

Posted September 9, 2016 by Jamie in Reviews // 2 Comments

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This book was sent for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect our opinion of the book or the content of our review.

ARC Review: Unscripted Joss Byrd by Lygia Day PeñaflorUnscripted Joss Byrd: A Novel by Lygia Day Peñaflor
Published by Roaring Brook Press on August 23rd 2016
ISBN: 1626723699
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 224
Format: ebook

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Hollywood critics agree. Joss Byrd is "fiercely emotional," a young actress with "complete conviction," and a "powerhouse."

Joss Byrd is America's most celebrated young actress, but on the set of her latest project, a gritty indie film called The Locals, Joss's life is far from glamorous. While struggling with her mother's expectations, a crush on her movie brother, and a secret that could end her career, Joss must pull off a performance worthy of a star. When her renowned, charismatic director demands more than she is ready to deliver, Joss must go off-script to stay true to herself.

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Disclaimer: We received an Advanced Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects our opinion of the novel.

Dani’s Review

Dani’s disclaimer: This book may be triggering to some people. It contains cheating and references to child and sexual abuse.

Joss Byrd started acting at the age of 6 thanks to her mother promising her a day off school to go to an audition. From that day on, Joss worked and worked, determined to stay out of school and do what her mom wanted, all the while hiding a secret about herself that made being an actress a lot harder. View Spoiler »

From the beginning, I straight up HATED Joss’ mom, Viva. SHE pushed Joss into acting and then acted like she’d given up so much for her. If this is what the parents of child stars are like, no wonder they go off the rails. In fact, my hatred was so extreme that I couldn’t actually enjoy the book. I just felt uncomfortable the whole time. I almost gave up numerous times, the strongest urge being at the halfway point where View Spoiler ». And I still hated her at the end. So much.

I feel like it should have been clearer before I started the book that it was about a 12-year-old. The heaviness of the book makes it possibly not suited for MG, and younger readers might actually find it boring. Because of that, I can see why it was slotted into the YA range. At the same time, not all YA readers will want to read about 12-year-olds, especially without warning. I imagine the publishers found this a very difficult book to position in the market.

I’m not going to lie; I felt weird reading this one because I went in expecting a YA with some romance. I also expected something lighter. This book was HEAVY. And with a 12-year-old main character, romance would feel wrong. It didn’t help that Joss came across as 15/16 at times. In fact, it would have maybe helped if she was 15/16.

The end was… I don’t know. It was depressing. I think it was framed to be happy enough, but I just felt sad and angry at the end. I guess the point was that it was real?

Ultimately, I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I knew from the beginning the following things:

  • This is not a light contemporary. It’s heavy and real and dark. The point is to show what life is like on set for child actors.
  • Joss is 12.
  • There is no romance. I’m not even going to hide that. There is a crush, but there is really no romance, and it’s not the point of the book.

But because I went in under false pretences and never quite recovered from the shock of realising the book was not what I was expecting and was, in fact, a lot darker than I was looking for, I have to say I’m not sure I’m happy I’ve read it now. I’m just frustrated.

Did I say the end was depressing? Yeah. I’m left feeling frustrated and depressed and need to read something more satisfying and cheery now.

Jamie’s Review

I really enjoyed this one but I had a couple issues with it. I thought that Joss’s voice sounded too old for her age and I was a little confused about the time period, even with the modern day references thrown in. The writing to me made it feel like it was from the 90s rather than present day and that Joss was a least double her age instead of a pre-teen. But I really enjoyed the story and seeing how Joss grew up because of someone else’s experiences in a sense.

I thought the relationship she had with her mother was really interesting. It seemed as though at some points Joss was the mother and Viva was the child. I feel like Viva didn’t really respect Joss and her choices but rather she just wanted Joss to keep making money for her to spend on ridiculous things. I understand it is a bit more complicated than that, but really not much.

I think for me, the majority of what was keeping me from loving it was Joss’s voice. I felt as though she was older and reflecting back on being 12 rather than actually being 12. As well, there were some reactions she had that made her seem really childish – much younger than 12. So I wasn’t quite sure how to handle those either. I feel like this is especially true with the flashbacks that were both when Joss was starting out (at 5) and when she was reflecting on getting her current job. These flashbacks made me question just how old Joss was and why she sounded so old considering her age. Sure, she has seen a lot of things and been in an industry that causes people to age quickly, but I felt like she was in her mid-20s rather than a mature 12 year old.

I enjoyed the story but I thought that the voice of Joss was off. It left me feeling like I was supposed to learn something but that missed me completely because of how she didn’t sound 12. I think if she had been older, say 16 or 17, I wouldn’t have had quite the same issue. However, the rest of the novel: Joss deciding that she’s had enough of other people telling her what to do, realizing her power on set, and understanding that some people are just bad people, were all fantastically done. I really felt for Joss and Norah in this one.


Jamie enjoyed this story more than Dani did. This might be because Dani did not go in prepared for how heavy the story would be. Also, Dani generally has issues with stories in which people cheat and get away with it. We both felt like Joss’ voice negatively impacted our enjoyment of the story. However, Jamie was still able to find redeeming qualities in the story, which Dani could appreciate, she could just not do so to the extent that she felt happy having read to the end.

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