Convince Me To Read (20): American Girls by Alison Umminger

Posted October 15, 2016 by Jamie in Convince Me To Read, Features, Reviews // 0 Comments

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About Convince Me To Read Reviews

While we all have fairly similar tastes, sometimes we need a little push to read a certain book. The Convince Me to Read Review will be a review of the novel plus a section on why we think the other would enjoy it.

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Convince Me To Read (20): American Girls by Alison UmmingerAmerican Girls by Alison Umminger
Published by Flatiron Books on June 7th 2016
ISBN: 1250075009
Pages: 304
AmazonChaptersTBD

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She was looking for a place to land.

Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood, and she's had it with her life at home. So Anna "borrows" her stepmom's credit card an runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister takes her in. But LA isn't quite the glamorous escape Anna had imagined.

As Anna spends her days on TV and movie sets, she engrosses herself in a project researching the murderous Manson girls—and although the violence in her own life isn't the kind that leaves physical scars, she begins to notice the parallels between herself and the lost girls of LA, and of America, past and present.

In Anna's singular voice, we glimpse not only a picture of life on the B-list in LA, but also a clear-eyed reflection on being young, vulnerable, lost, and female in America—in short, on the B-list of life. Alison Umminger writes about girls, sex, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn't, in a way not often seen in YA fiction.


Jamie’s review

So this is a Convince Me To Read review but it’s also not. Because I think there are some people who would enjoy this one, but I do not think that person is Dani. This feels more like an Adult book dressed in a YA rather than an actual YA novel, which is why I actually think more people should read it. However, I don’t think if you want to fully examine how you are quite like the Manson girls that this is the novel for you.

Most of the critical reviews of this one say that this book doesn’t have a plot and while that is true, per se, I would argue that the no plot makes this book so fantastic. It isn’t about getting from Point A to Point B with all the drivebys in between — this book is about learning to live life and having a summer where you are free to learn to be who you are. And that’s what Anna gets: a summer in LA free from the drama that surrounds her life on the east coast where she can pretend to be someone new, but really just falls back into her default.

I really enjoyed the parallels between the 1960s and Charles Manson to everything that happens today. Umminger takes the horrific events and contextualizes them. She gives these girls stories and faces and realities, which is especially true for the victims, and then twists them into Anna’s (and our) present day. I felt like I could have been one of those girls given the right circumstances and isn’t that really the point?

The downfall for me was that it housed awful parents as the backdrop for all of this and that some of the things she said, while I’m sure typically teenage girls think, could have been taken out. The slutshaming was real in this one. I think that it worked for Anna but since this is still a YA novel I stand by the idea that there needs to be a higher standard of ensuring that bullshit doesn’t make the pages of teen lit so that we stop using those types of terms and tactics to bring down other women.

Otherwise I was thoroughly satisfied. I think what this book does best is romanticize LA and then show you the inner workings in a way that makes you still want to achieve your dreams while realizing that there is no such thing as the American Dream. It was a tough line to walk down but I think Umminger really nailed it.

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So yes, I would recommend it if you enjoy cult classics, Adult Lit, and feeling weird because you connect more with the murderer/villain than the hero of the story. But I do not think Dani will enjoy this book so I do not recommend it to her. This one is just clever enough to be weird and hip all at the same time.

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