My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger
Genre: Contemporary, Coming of Age
Published by: Atom
Format: ARC e-book
Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Somehow, this book was so much more and so much less than I was expecting, which seems like a bit of a weird statement to begin with, but bare with me. I was expecting the ‘researching the Manson murders’ to be a bigger thing that it was. I was constantly expecting a new murder to take place, which just shows how I’ve come to expect things from this genre, when what I should actually be doing is expecting surprises. So, although My Favourite Manson Girl was not the books I was expecting, I really enjoyed the gritty realism and conflicting emotions of Anna’s life. In America the book is titled American Girls and I think all the images that come that are a lot more accurate than My Favourite Manson Girl, because I was constantly expecting some Nancy Drew mystery to pop up.
P L O T
Anna steals her mum’s new parter’s credit card and books herself a flight to L.A where she can stay with her older sister Delia. She spends a lot of her time in L.A. on the set for a show called Chips Ahoy! (kind of like a spoof of The Suite Life on Deck!) with her sister’s current boyfriend, researching the Manson murders for her sister’s ex-boyfriend.
Like a lot of contemporaries the plot feels invisible because it’s mostly focused on the the characters. Anna is having problems with pretty much everyone in her life and she has this complex where she thinks she’s a bad person and keeps finding evidence to support those claims. She’s really aware of what she’s doing in some cases and others she can’t see how she’s affecting the people around her, but is ready to jump in calling others selfish.
C H A R A C T E R S
Anna’s really interested in the Manson murders and all things grizzly, but she keeps freaking herself out. She can be a little selfish and overshares. She’s a moody teenage girl, there’s not much more to it that that. There’s Delia, her older sister, who’s the opposite to Anna in many ways, but the same in levels of maturity (at times). She’s really obsessed with who other people see her since she wants to make in big in LA. So, it’s an interesting mix. Then there’s Olivia and the twins from Chips Ahoy! (a show undoubtedly based on The Suite Life on Deck) who round out the different celebrity life stereotypes.
R O M A N C E
No. No it was not necessary. No. Admittedly, the majority of the ‘romance’ was the building of a friendship, but why couldn’t it have just ended that way? I don’t really like it (aka. I hate it) when boys are the catalyst for change but Anna learned a lot of things from sharing her life with people whose lives are always on display.
V E R D I C T
I spent the entire story thinking that the Manson Murders were fictional. I thought they were something the author had created in extreme detail to add to the plot, and I didn’t realise until reading ‘Note From The Author’ that they were real events that took place in 60s America. Maybe American readers will be more aware of this tragedy, but I’ve never heard anything about it in the UK and I think that really affected my reading experience. All of the information about the murders was something I was learning from the book, so I couldn’t pick out where the author had made thoughtful comments on the character of the people involved. I can’t pinpoint the emotions that I might’ve had knowing about these events before hand, but what I can say is that even knowing their relevance, I’m not entirely convinced they added something to the story. In the note the author even makes sure to say that the book was never supposed to be about the Manson Murders, but Anna, and I completely got that sense. The Manson Murders added to Anna’s fears of the big city, but they had no real bearing on the plot.
Overall, I have mixed feelings on this book. It was hit and miss, so I gave it 3 stars.