Monday, June 28, 2010

Gotham Gal Review: Young, Restless and Broke

Young, Restless & Broke
Blossom Kan & Michelle You
St. Martin's Press April 2010

Synopsis:  An aspiring young soap actress moves to L.A. to pursue the job—and man—of her dreams Sarah Cho always knew that she’d have to rough it as an aspiring soap actress in order to fulfill her dreams. Flipping burgers and bartending to pay the bills, she is going nowhere far in New York until she meets Daniel Wong, a dazzling Hollywood soap opera producer. Instantly smitten, Sarah jumps at the chance to move to L.A. to pursue her ambitions— and a relationship with Daniel. But will Tinseltown be all it’s cracked it to be?

Gotham Gal Review:   I had read the authors' previous book CHINA DOLLS, so I was intrigued when I picked up this book at the library.  Well, I'm sorry to say that I found it to be a very disappointing read. On the one had, the book works extremely well as a coming of age story. Sarah comes from a very traditional Chinese family who are also not very supportive of her desire to be an actress. While her sister Lin has a high-powered career as an investment banker and has just married her long term boyfriend, her sister Amy the middle sister has serious issues with Sarah. No matter what, she basically treats Sarah and her dreams like dirt under her shoe. Sarah feels like an outsider in her own family, at the same time she wishes that she could please them. She also has issues with the obligatory commitment phobic boyfriend, which has now become a cliche in chick-lit books. Oh, and she also has the gay best friend, yet another cliche. When the book focused on Sarah's relationship with her family, the book came alive.

Unfortunately where the book stumbles is in its depiction of her career. I was a professional actress for fifteen years, and I have a number of friends in the soap media, and I found it completely unrealistic that Sarah has absolutely no actor friends. Also, Sarah doesn't seem to have the first clue about pursuing her career until she gets to LA when she makes her first actor friend Giselle who helps her to navigate the LA acting scene. She tells her about audition workshops, sending out postcards, and doing student films. All this stuff is basic acting 101, I knew this stuff in high school. There are three rights of passage that every actor goes through in New York a) doing a student film, b) doing a Biggs-Rosati tour, and c) working at the New York Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, NY.  Some actors do all three. Also, I don't know anyone who refers to the trade paper BACKSTAGE as a magazine. For someone whose dream it is to be on a soap opera, Sarah never seems to have thought about taking a soap opera acting class in New York, where she would be seen by all the NY soap casting directors, of which unfortunately with the demise of ATWT and Guiding Light is now one. Apart from one brief mention by Daniel, there is almost no discussion about how hard it is to be an Asian actor in an industry that is predominantly white. Neither her new friend Giselle (who is African-American) or Sarah ever discuss the problems they face as miniorities. I did find Sarah's having to have more than one survival job to be completely realistic.

A few quibbles, One Life to Live films in Manhattan not Brooklyn. At the SOAP OPERA DIGEST party Sarah attends where she meets Daniel, at first they talk about it being an awards party, and then it's just a regular party. Soap Opera Digest hasn't given out awards in like 10 years, and I'm sure they wish they had the money to have a party at the Waldorf. Also, the authors describe Daniel as a cross between Rick Yune and Yuel Kwon who won Survivor which is just lazy writing. What if you don't know who either one of these are or what they look like? The name dropping was particularly boring after awhile, particularly a scene at the Asylum anniversary party where Arianne Zucker from Days of Our Lives seems to appear simply because the authors mention her in their acknowledgements at the front of the book. At the end of the book, Sarah has an agent, but I don't remember a scene where she signed with anyone, but that maybe because towards the end, I stopped paying attention.

Sarah also comes across as needy and immature, which I put off to her being the baby in the family and not getting the affirmation that she needed particularly from her mother.

Verdict:  3 out of 5 Apples. As a coming of age story the books succeeds, but the book is slightly cliched in its depiction of the acting world.

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