Book Review: Spoiled
“Arugula, put them down. You know thigh-high sandals give you cankles.” Thus begins Spoiled, the debut young-adult novel from hilarious fashion bloggers the Fug Girls, whose own special brand of irreverent, celeb-skewering wit is stamped on every page. The story follows two girls: Molly Dix, recently transplanted to L.A. from Indiana, reeling from her mother’s recent death and an equally recent revelation that her father is movie star Brick Berlin; and wannabe starlet Brooke Berlin, a blonde Blair Waldorf with a conscience whose glossy, perfect world is rocked by the arrival of her half sister. In classic Parent Trap fashion, the girls immediately find themselves at odds — but this being Hollywood, their feud plays out in the pages of national tabloids and through the frantic texting and tweeting of their high school peers.
The plot arc is fairly standard YA; there are hijinks, double-crosses, and finally lessons are learned. Where this book stands out, though, is in how effortlessly the authors achieve a balance of razor-edged hilarity and pure heart. It’s got the wish-fulfillment aspect of Gossip Girl (16-year-olds wear Manolos and dine at Nobu) but is packed with genuinely touching and emotionally resonant moments. You don’t have to be a teenage girl — or female at all, for that matter — to empathize with Brooke as she stares at a cache of unsent emails to her M.I.A. mother, or understand Molly’s guilty frustration at drifting apart from the long-distance boyfriend who comforted her through a hard time. All of that is sardined between mile-a-minute jokes and characters that manage to be both patently ridiculous and completely realistic, from Tyra Banks clones named after salad greens to a movie star who quotes dialogue from his own films as he lectures his teenage daughters. The book also manages to avoid another YA pitfall: treating its target audience like delicate flowers by delving into Very Special Episode territory. There’s no sex but a little swearing; and when one of the characters gets drunk, she gets a stern talking-to but also a McMuffin.
I’ll confess, I raced through the whole thing the day it arrived at the office; luckily, a second try only improved the experience, letting me unpack some of the jokes I missed the first time. The bottom line? This book is delightful — perfect for beach reading or for the commute home on the T. Either way you’ll be stifling giggles.