(Website, Twitter, Goodreads)Published by Penguin on March 10th 2015
Genres: Adolescence, General, Love & Romance, Performing Arts, Social Issues, Young Adult
Meet Magnolia.Her father's dead, her boyfriend's ditched her to commit himself more fully to surfing, and her mother's depressed because she can't get cast on The Real Housewives of Orange County. All Magnolia wants is to reinvent herself.Meet Ford.Half his family is in jail, the other half probably should be, he shoplifted his way into a job at a record store, and his brother pawned his 1953 Telecaster for a quick buck. All Ford wants is to reinvent himself.Ford, meet Magnolia.When the two teens are cast in Spotlight, a reality TV singing competition, both see it as their chance to start anew. With each episode, as they live together in a Hollywood Hills mansion and sing their hearts out, Ford and Magnolia fall in love. But how genuine can that love be when a television audience is watching their every move—and when their pasts are catching up them so much faster than they can run?Perfect for fans of Pitch Perfect, and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Mindy Kaling, and Meg Cabot, Everybody Knows Your Name is a romantic comedy that delivers an unforgettable cast of characters (and way more laughs than any episode of American Idol).
Everybody Knows Your Name revolves around a reality TV Singing Competition called Spotlight. Think The Voice and American Idol plus The Real World (omg is that show even still on?) But don’t let that fool you, it’s not quite as light-hearted as I expected it to be.
Magnolia isn’t sure exactly who she is in life. Her father died and she has no one to talk with about it… especially her mom who is more concerned with making it in Hollywood than worrying about the emotional well-being of her daughter. A recent split from her boyfriend has made the idea of joining Spotlight even easier.
Ford, struggling to find himself and get out of the dead end life he has at home is determined to win. Emancipated from his family, he starts the show with a lie that allows him a connection to Magnolia that he never expected.
The producers of Spotlight want a story though, and when they find out that Magnolia and Ford are falling for each other, they focus on how to get the public as invested in them as they can. But when your every move is being taped and watched and your past can come back to bite you at any time, how can you focus on getting to know someone and really fall in love and is it real or is it just for show?
I guess when I went into this, I was expecting something a bit lighter. I mean that cover screams fun! But what we get is something on the other end of the spectrum – both Magnolia and Ford are struggling in their lives… they are both looking at Spotlight as something that could change everything for them.
For Magnolia, it keeps her mom happy. It gives her an outlet for her ‘being famous’ obsession, and she’s willing to give up her happiness in place of her moms. Her struggles though come in the form of loneliness. When her father died she caved into herself, isolating herself from her friends and leaning solely on her boyfriend. But they’re no longer together and when Ford shows an interest and when she finds they share the things in common, she makes the effort to get to know him.
Ford needs Spotlight. He’s a reformed bad boy who needs to get out of the dead end town working a dead end job where his last name is associated with drugs and alcohol … and jail. Most of his family has been in trouble with the law in some way or other, and the only way he feels like he can make it on Spotlight is if no one finds out about them. He’s emancipated from them anyway, so telling people they died on national TV isn’t a big deal right? He never meant for it to hurt Magnolia though and I really understood why he didn’t want anyone to know about them, but thinking that the truth would never come out was a little short sighted.
So there’s a lot going on in this story, and like I said, not much of it is light and fun… I think my biggest issue here was the insta-love. I can get on board with it in some instances for sure, but it just didn’t work here for me. I never felt the connection between these two characters and I struggled to understand them both apart and as a couple. I normally love seeing such completely different people with completely different backgrounds both economically and family-wise come together and make a connection, but I think I needed to see more bonding and relationship building to make their relationship believable.
I also really struggled with the depiction of family here. Magnolia’s mom is never there for her. She won’t even let her talk about her dead father with her. Every time she was on a page I wanted to throw the book. She’s simply more infatuated with the idea of being famous, even if it’s just by relation or friendship and that frustrated me to no end. And when she finally does something motherly at the end I felt it was just too little too late. And Ford’s family. UGH. I know that there are families like this out there. I know that they exist, and knowing he at least had his boss to depend on (and occasionally his sister) was wonderful, but it was just so sad. It made his desire and need to get out clearer, but I just really hated that there was no positive family representation here.
I will say that the story was interesting and definitely a behind the scenes look at what some of the negative side effects of fame and reality TV. – I’d have liked a bit more relationship development before these two fell in love though… I think that may have changed my final outlook on it in the end.
Thanks to Viking for the advance copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.