• Seeing Stars
Oh! You Pretty Things Book Cover Oh! You Pretty Things
Shanna Mahin
Dutton Adult
February 16, 2016

"A Hollywood native from the wrong side of the Walk of Fame makes a play for star status" (Cosmopolitan) in Shanna Mahin's acclaimed debut novel, called "quite a breakout" by The New York Times. Jess Dunne is third-generation Hollywood, but her star on the boulevard has yet to materialize. So when she upgrades her nowhere barista job to personal assistant for a film composer, she falls as hard for the nearness to fame as she does his perfectly designed kitchen. Jess kills at cooking, a talent that only serves her intensifying urge to dig in to Los Angeles’s celebrity buffet. But then Jess’s food garners the attention of Eva Carlton, an actress on the rise, and Jess is all too eager to jump ship to Eva’s entourage, a decision that threatens to explode all her personal relationships. And when Jess’s mother—a failed actress who puts the strange in estrangement—turns up toting a suitcase full of secrets, Jess must confront the truth she’s been running from all her life.

free copyWhen the Book Gives You Combat Flashbacks…

(and by combat, I mean working PR)

Thanks a lot, Shanna.

OK, so Ms. Mahin doesn’t know me, and she sure as hell didn’t write “Oh! You Pretty Things” to cause me to quiver in the corner of my hotel room muttering to myself, but if you’ve walked a mile in my knockoff Louboutins, you would understand that dealing with celebrities ( and quasi-celebrities… and their entourages… and their best friend from second grade…) leaves the kind of scars that don’t heal.

Enter my new spirit animal Jess Dunne, “personal assistant to the stars”.  I know you think that sounds cool, but as someone who has known actual personal assistants to the stars, I can tell you it is one of the suckiest jobs on the planet, for a number of reasons.

Let’s break a few down, shall we?

  1. Don’t let them fool you – every celebrity is at least a bit crazy.  It isn’t usually their
    fault, but if everyone was constantly doing your bidding, bending to your will and pretending to worship you, you’d end up damaged, too.
  2. Hold the applause – celeb assistants do not get the celeb treatment.  With the rare exception, personal assistants are the personal bitch and handmaiden of a celebrity.  Even if they’re friendly to one another, those cow towing to the celeb care not for the lowly peon following behind carrying two cell phones, a purse, a Timon stuffed animal and a grande soy skinny caramel macchiato with whip, no lid.
  3. Clocks don’t exist – work hours are when the celeb needs you.  If your client/employer only does calls at 3am because it’s when he gets home from the club and feels “down to talk”, that’s when you talk.  If your celeb needs you to drive their second cousin to a party at 11pm on a Saturday because “it’s just easier”, you do it.

This book is clearly written by someone who has seen the dark side, and maybe knows those silver lining moments that make you keep going, even when it’s kind of the last thing you want to do.

Ms. Mahin captures more than that in this raw novel, though.  We are faced with a very insecure, somewhat narcissistic girl that you know would be the idiot to run to the murderer in a slasher movie.  And yet, we keep hoping that Jess will get her act together before the final page.  We hope she’ll do the right things for those she loves, and open herself up to a life she should be leading at nearly 30.  Instead, she seems to meander around the Train Station of Life, never really grasping she has to board the train sometime.

Interspersed, Jess deals with friendships, romance and familial bonds that seem woven with gossamer silk fibers at times.

In fact, the only reason I can’t say I absolutely adored this book is because the main character’s complete disregard for everyone else could be overwhelming at times.  I have definitely known people just like her, and it takes them such a long time to get their lives in order.And frankly, the last possible job choice for a narcissist should be working for someone around whom the world figuratively revolves.

So I guess that means the author succeeded at reeling me in.  I was completely emotionally invested. Huh.

That being said, I really enjoyed this book. I love the flow, the tone and the overall writing style of Ms. Mahin, and I hope that she continues this foray into the writing arena.  I think she has a lot of potential.

“Oh! You Pretty Things” by Shanna Mahin is a glimpse into a life few get to see, whilst traversing the awkward and painful years of “figuring it out”.  It will drag you into this girl’s life with all its pitfalls and pleasures, and leave you wanting more.