The Plot: Who doesn’t love the hit TV show, Jenna & Jonah’s How to Be a Rock Star? It’s on the Family Network, and it’s so fun, especially how Jenna and Jonah are next door neighbors who fall in love and also are rock stars! Their songs are just so fab! And isn’t it cute how Charlie Tracker, who plays Jenna, and Fielding Withers, who plays Jonah, are dating each other in real life! I know all about it because I’ve seen the photos in Celeb Weekly.
Meet Charlie and Fielding. It seems like these two teens have it all; at seventeen, the world is theirs! Well, if you ignore the fact that Charlie has been legally emancipated for two years, when at age fifteen she found out that her parents had spent all her money. Fielding’s on his own, also, since his parents are back home in Cincinnati, believing at seventeen he’s old enough to be on his own. Luckily, they both have their agents — the same agents who concocted the idea, years ago, for Charlie and Fielding to be a “real” couple. Yep, it’s a fauxmance for the sake of cameras and photographers and publicity.
Darn, you just cannot believe anything you read or see.
By the way — Fielding’s real name? Aaron Littleton.
The Good: Confession: I like TV. Further confession: I’m equal opportunity in my viewing, and I’ve been known to watch both movies and TV shows aimed at teens and tweens. Further, further confession: I subscribe to People and Us Magazine, and have been known to read TMZ.
In other words…. Franklin & Halpin wrote this book just for me. Which, actually, is a bit dangerous because, being as I respect the shows and the actors, I’m not going to accept the easy laugh, the mocking, the making fun. A shallow look at the television industry just won’t do for me. Luckily for all of us, Franklin and Halpin address the issues of teen stardom, publicity, acting, talent, professionalism, entertainment, and celebrity with equal parts humor, respect, and cynicism.
Charlie and Fielding are in musical sitcom aimed at tweens; they’ve grown up on TV. Charlie was born and raised in the industry and doesn’t want to be know as a former child actress; Fielding doesn’t know what he wants, but he sees how hard his blue collar father works and realized the best thing to do was save his acting money so he’d have financial security to do whatever comes after teen stardom. Part of what makes their show popular is the belief that the actors behind it — Charlie and Fielding — are a couple, just like their characters. Truth is, the aren’t a couple and can barely stand each other. I loved the parts where Charlie and Fielding go on fake-dates that maximize their brand and appeal: go to the open food market and buy strawberries together! Go to dinner and order carefully selected meals; Fielding is a vegetarian in real life, but that won’t do for the fans, so he’s forced to order meals he doesn’t eat. I loved this look into lives on the other side of the camera, and wondered how much was the result of research and how much was over the top. For example, I can believe the pre-arranged photo ops, the restrictions against the teens getting drastic haircuts or tattoos, but limiting their ice cream choices?
It doesn’t take too long for the carefully constructed farce to come crashing down and Charlie and Fielding flee to a safe, remote house. While there, Fielding slowly reclaims his name, Aaron, and the two begin to be honest with themselves and each other.
I enjoyed the Hollywood and acting background, but the heart of this story is the layered romance between Charlie and Aaron. They are two teens playing teens who like each other playing teens who like each other. The faking has been going on so long that neither is aware of what their real feelings are; much like how both have been doing sitcom acting for so long, they’re not sure if they really have any talent as actors. This is a bickering romance book, much like Much Ado About Nothing, a play that figures prominently in the plot. The “we argue as if we hate each other but really don’t” plot can be hard to pull off; Franklin and Halpin do a terrific job of conveying the tension between Charlie and Aaron that masks their deeper emotions. Since the two teens were forced to “fake it” years ago, any initial feelings of something more being possible between them was never given the freedom to develop. Plus, there’s the model of Shakespeare’s famous Benedick and Beatrice. Finally, the book is told in alternating chapters so the reader knows first hand that Charlie and Aaron are conflicted about their complex feelings for each other.
Bottom line: this is a fun book! Charlie and Aaron know each well enough to push each other’s buttons and I enjoyed their verbal sparring. I loved the look at what life may be like for tween and teen stars caught up in the Hollywood machine; and I liked the inclusion of people who love acting so much they do Goblin 3: Son of Goblin to help subsidize participation in Shakespeare Festivals. Summer may be over, but it’s always time for a fun beach read like Jenna & Jonah’s Fauxmance.