“American Girls” by Alison Umminger

This book is a modern take on “The Great Gatsby” with Manson girl undertones. When teenager Anna loses it with her family at home, she runs away to LA to meet her half sister Delia. Delia is trying to make it as an actress, but despite her beauty, struggles.

On the sets of Hollywood’s D-list, Anna is forced to acknowledge that glittery LA is actually kind of scuzzy. Although not everyone is terrible, a creepy director wannabe hires Anna to research the murderous Manson girls and she becomes obsessed with discovering their back story.

This book is dark, but sometimes I like my books dark like my chocolate. There is a lot going on. The emotional violence in Anna’s family contrasts with physical violence of the Mason girls.

The book focuses on an intense comparison between women. The women include:
Daisy in “The Great Gatsby,” who is stunningly beautiful.
Delia Anna’s actress sister, who is getting too old to really make it.
The Manson girls themselves, whose beauty contrasts with their crimes.
An teenage princess star, who used to be on top but is on her way out.

The main character Anna may be an allusion to Daisy’s friend Jordan in “The Great Gatsby.” Anna is girl who’s in the middle of society, but isn’t the queen bee. Instead, she is on the side of all the action. She still somewhat has her head, even though she’s a little lost.

The comparison between women in “American Girls” left me with questions about why we value beauty in women the way we do. Can we, as women, really live the American dream? Does beauty help or hinder us?

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