Title: My Favourite Manson Girl
Author: Alison Umminger
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Published: 7th June 2016
My Rating: ★★★★☆
I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads
Anna has had a miserable year. Everything feels wrong with her life. And rather than stay and face the mess, she steals a credit card and books herself a seat on the first flight out of town to Los Angeles, to crash with her sister. But soon after she lands, cold reality soon dawns on her: Hollywood isn’t the escape she needs. She is trapped in a town full of lost souls and wannabes, with no friends, no cash and no return ticket.
When she’s offered a job researching the murderous Manson girls for a dubious film, she reluctantly accepts – she needs the money. But soon enough, among the fake smiles and glitter-fuelled parties, things turn from strange, to dark, to dangerous . . .
This is not going to be the summer Anna had in mind.
“My first Manson girl was Leslie Van Houten, the homecoming princess with the movie-star smile. She was on death row at nineteen for putting a knife into the already-dead body of some poor, random woman for the lamest reason that anyone gives for doing anything: all the other kids were doing it.”
General Thoughts (non-spoiler)
Throughout this book I was constantly saying to myself, “Where is this story going? What’s the real point?” and it isn’t until now that I’m making all of the connections and attempting to figure out what they mean. This is a truly interesting and thoroughly thought provoking book, not your ordinary light and cheerful YA contemporary. I’d definitely suggest this if you want to really think and make connections within the next book you read 🙂
Review (contains spoilers)
I feel like this book is going to be difficult to review, not because it was bad but because so much happened that I don’t really know how to explain – or know if I’m interpreting it right. So, yeah, just bare with me.
This book is nothing like what I thought it would be after reading the synopsis. I thought that maybe the protagonist, Anna, would find out she was related to one of the Manson girls and decide to follow in her ancestor’s footsteps or something… crazy, I know. Anyway, as much as I liked the way the book actually turned out, I can’t help thinking that it’s missing something – some big reveal or climax. Maybe I’m just nit picking but I wasn’t left feeling wowed or as if this book has changed my life (other than providing me with some information about the Manson case). One last little thing I’m a bit confused about, why is this book called My Favourite Manson Girl when Anna specifies that she doesn’t actually have a favourite, or is that the whole point? I guess because the Manson Girls aren’t the sole focus of this book I don’t really get why they’re mentioned in the title, but it doesn’t really matter, I just wanted to mention it. I know that there’s an alternative title – American Girls – which makes a bit more sense.
Okay, time to talk about Anna. Honestly, I found myself relating to Anna quite a few times throughout this book, not the crazy family stuff or her Manson girl similarities, but her actual character. She’s an incredibly cynical and pessimistic fifteen year old, snarky and a bit of an adventure seeker (all things I identify with at certain times). These similarities definitely helped me relate to her feelings, and allowed me to feel bad for her with how she thinks she’s invisible and the reason for her mum getting cancer. So, overall, I did enjoy her as a character and I liked reading from her perspective because she’s so sarcastic.
Moving on to Anna’s family… I have such a huge problem with her mums. I honestly couldn’t believe what I was reading when her actual mum was telling her that she wanted her to stay with Delia over summer because she thought Anna would make her cancer worse. In no way, shape or form is that acceptable to say to your child, especially one who’s only fifteen. Saying that, I also couldn’t believe how incredibly stupid it was for Anna to send those prank texts to that popular girl, Paige. I’m not saying that I’ve never send one, because obviously I have when I was younger, but the contents of the abortion texts were disgusting. So I do see where her mum was coming from when she was angry about those texts, but pretty much everything else she moaned or blamed on Anna annoyed me because it was so ridiculous and hurtful.
In contrast, I thought Delia, Anna’s sister, was great. Although the sisters fought, I loved reading about their relationship and how they both teased each other and openly talked about stuff like sex, even though Delia could be a royal pain in the ass at times (and narcissistic and a drama queen). Although it was hard to tell at times, you can clearly see that the two both care about each other deeply and want to protect each other, which we see when Anna and Jeremy go off looking for the person who has been stalking Delia (which was majorly creepy, might I add).
The whole stalker/criminal aspect to this book genuinely was scary though. It was unpredictable and I didn’t know when something bad was going to happen to the characters, like the producer’s wife constantly staking out Delia’s house and then attaching all of those explicit pictures of her to her door. I actually thought, with the way the book seemed to be going, that something worse was going to happen to Delia – like I genuinely thought she was going to get beat up or seriously threatened. Saying that, it was a shame that she lost Dex at the end because he seemed like such a sweet and genuine guy (not the usual guys in LA, according to this book).
Speaking of another relationship – Jeremy and Anna. What would a YA book be without a bit of romance, eh? So Jeremy and his twin brother are on this kids show, Chips Ahoy! which unexpectedly made me endlessly happy because I just pictured them as Cole and Dylan Sprouse from The Sweet Life XD Anyway, I actually liked this relationship for what it was – a friendship and a bit of a summer fling. It was insinuated at the end of the book that they might see each other again but, if we get a sequel, I don’t really see it working out. Especially since they live in different states and Jeremy is thinking about going off to uni. His character was nothing special, but I quite liked him anyway. It was funny to see what him and his brother thought of the show, and what these “child stars” do in their spare time.
I guess the next person I should talk about it Olivia, the classic famous celeb who is having a bit of a breakdown because people don’t love her as much as they used to. If Olivia were real, I’d definitely say that in five years time she would end up being the next Lindsay Lohan. Anyway, I didn’t like her, how could I? She was horrible, narcissistic, spoilt and a total brat throughout this whole story. I’m not saying that I don’t feel bad for her, because I do, especially towards the end. One of my favourite things about this book is that it was almost like an expose on the real life of a celebrity – they all have problems, they’re not perfect, it’s hard to become relevant and stay that way etc. I found it an interesting slant on a YA book as, usually when someone meets a celeb in fiction, they’re perfect and they both get their happily ever after.
So, last but not least I want to talk about the Manson Girls. This was another thing I found incredibly interesting dotted throughout this book but it was also lacking. I feel like they were just mentioned as filler sometimes because there was no big reveal (like Anna was secretly inclined to murder someone as a result of her research). What I did like about this though was how the book portrayed these girls as just that – girls. Normal teenagers who got roped into doing awful things by someone they trusted, someone who supported and loved them when no one else would. I also quite liked that Anna ended up writing her history report on these girls, even though that was quite predictable.
Overall, I liked this book even though it was lacking in plot somewhat. I find the latent messages interesting and thought provoking, and a nice twist from the usual YA books I read. In the way of a sequel… I’m not sure if the author has anything planned but I hope she doesn’t go there. There are some loose ends that I could see spanning into a second book but I think I’d prefer this one to just stay a standalone. It’s a great debut novel and I’d definitely suggest it to anyone looking for something a bit different.
“The real danger wasn’t violence like you saw on the television news, random and exciting – the real danger was the vampiric kind, the sort that you invited in because it told you everything you wanted to hear.”
There’s something just so creepy and lethal about this quote that makes me appreciate it enough to name it as my favourite from this book 🙂
- Characters: ★★★★☆
- Plot: ★★★☆☆
- Ending: ★★★★☆
- Originality: ★★★★★
- Cover: ★★★★☆
This book comes out on the 7th June, so definitely keep an eye out for it! This is such a refreshing type of YA and I enjoyed reading it. Ps. Thank you so much for 500 followers! You guys are amazing x