All that really has to happen here - if you're me, at least - is to see the words "Sloane Tanen."
"Samantha looked around the playground in amazement. Her mother had been right. She really was the smartest and the prettiest."
At least, that was all I had to see when my friend Sarah messaged me on Facebook: "Have you heard of my friend Sloane's new book? Do you want to?"
I have the coolest friends.
My friends have the coolest friends. Sloane Tanen, as you can tell from the images above, is the caustic comic genius behind Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same and Going for the Bronze: Still Bitter, More Baggage. There is also a Softer Side of Sloane, one that writes darling kiddie books like Where Is Coco Going? and Coco All Year Round, among others. Coco is a parasol-toting bonbon of a chick, immaculately turned out and possessed of about a dozen hatboxes. Coco is the Posh Spice of the fiber toy world. Only Fancy Nancy or Princess Beatrice could rock a fascinator like Coco rocks her pink bow. Possibly Jim Averbeck.
But with Are You Going to Kiss Me Now? Ms. Tanen has moved out of her meticulously constructed dioramas and into the real world. Or possibly The Real World (Good lord, they're up to Real World XXV! There have been twenty-five cycles of that show!). In her first YA novel, Tanen maroons Francesca, an angsty, smartmouthed, underachieving tabloid-addicted everyday teenage redhead from Oregon, with four movie stars, a teen pop star, and a celebrity gossip blogger on a deserted island somewhere in the vicinity of Madagascar.
It's just like Survivor, except they are not there on purpose. It is just like Gilligan's Island, except they do not have an endless supply of wardrobe and a Professor. It is just like Lost, except I never watched Lost so I can't tell you why it isn't just like Lost, but I suspect it's a lot funnier than Lost was. It's actually quite like Madagascar, except the hippo character is jonesing for a cigarette and the giraffe can't take his eyes off the lion's ass.
The celebs and Francesca have the same problems you and I would have on a deserted tropical island - they need to make fire, find water, identify food - but they also have special problems peculiar to their status. Lack of access to a mirror is devastating to one. Another pulls all her extensions out as she withdraws from her "metabolism pills." Francesca herself is lost without cell phone service, and fruitlessly, compulsively, texts every detail of the experience to her best friend. They all suffer without their "people".
Alliances are formed and dissolve, characters redeem themselves only to behave like dicks again, secrets - lots of secrets - are revealed, and yes, there is kissing! It is F-U-N. A lot of the fun is identifying which celebrities Tanen has modeled her characters on. The one with the hair extensions and the pills seems obviously to be a (not much) younger Lindsay Lohan; the older movie star who ineptly pilots the plane is a lot of Travolta plus a little Bruce Willis; the earnest activist / gorgeous man-whore is, I'd say, part Justin Timberlake, part... no no, I'll stop. Do it yourself, it's much funner. It helps if you read Lainey on a regular basis.
It's becoming a bit of a thing, in YA literature, to have your teen characters brush up against fame in some way. Meg Cabot's Airhead places a regular girl in a supermodel's body. Joanna Philbin's Daughters books are about the daughters of famous people. Same with the I,Q books. In Audrey, Wait! Audrey experiences the thrills and pitfalls of sudden notoriety.
I think I get this, and I think it makes a lot of sense. Although in my experience, teens are not quite as obsessed with celebrities as some people seem to think they are - I gave an "Act Your Age on the Internet" talk not long ago that was studded with celebrity bad examples, and most of the kids in the group did not recognize notorious photos of Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, or Lindsay Lohan - celebrity is, in a lot of ways, a good analogy for adolescence. Who else is more self-obsessed or attention-addicted? Who else is inventing themselves on a daily basis?
In the end, Francesca learns a little from the atrociously-behaved celebs, and they learn a little from her. But in fact, it's you and I who are the real winners, because we get to read this funny, frothy, zingy novel. Tell the houseboy I'll take my tart dialogue and savory plot twists on the rocks with chili salt around the rim, please. Out by the pool. Oh and ask him to bring one for Sarah, too. Clearly we need to catch up!