Elevate Difference

Hollywood Is Like High School With Money

In the new novel Hollywood is Like High School with Money, Zoey Dean explores high-stakes backstabbing amidst the glamorous realm of movie making. This book is reflective of the author’s typical genre: juvenile novels set in ritzy realms where teenagers act like jaded adults beyond what is typical among American youth. The author previously penned The A-List: Hollywood Royalty series and has been a New York Times bestseller for just this sort of novel. Book clubs beware: Dean’s latest take on Beverly Hills might find its way to your reading list.

The protagonist in this particular story is a naïve young Ohioan transplant to the Hills named Taylor Henning who lands her first Hollywood job as second assistant to corporate powerhouse Iris Whittaker at Metronome movie studio. Taylor quickly learns that good girl Midwest manners don’t keep her in the game amidst the school of sharks that is corporate entertainment America. Like many other beach-reads, this book plays out the scenario of innocent girl meets snarky sabotaging antagonist, yet somehow heroine manages to come out on top. As in the popular film Mean Girls, the protagonist takes a turn trying on the wicked glove before managing to triumph.

Sometimes superfluous with adjectives, Dean nonetheless manages to draw readers into Taylor's plight among the piranhas of Hollywood. Taylor's number one nemesis is one venomous blonde named Kylie Arthur, first assistant to Ms. Whitaker. Kylie is devious in the most typical manner of the beautifully vapid and will stop at nothing to move up in the company. The only character more wily than Kylie is Iris’ young daughter, Quinn, with her brazenly typical “don’t give a fuck” teen attitude and practiced indifference to everything outside her adolescent circle of cool.

Dean throws a cog into the works when Taylor reaches out to Quinn for advice on how to survive amongst the Beverly Hills veterans, and the teenage girl begrudgingly obliges. As Taylor follows Quinn’s texted directives such as “fake it until you make it,” she undergoes a transformation from Cleveland sweetie into vindictive power player. In some places, it is almost unbelievable that Taylor would so rapidly confuse her true nature with the cutthroat habits of the industry (via the eyes of a teen), but sometimes innocence really can breed extreme behavior and so, as a reader, you just roll with believing.

While overall Dean does a good job of bringing the reader into Taylor’s Hollywood world, it can sometimes feel like a case of “grab the thesaurus” to sort through the descriptions. While I have nothing against narratives written to entertain youth, please do realize that reading this novel will not enrich your literary breadth: it will amuse you in some places, frustrate you in others, and ultimately leave you with a feeling of blank.

Blank is okay though, because reading a book like this clears your mental slate allowing you to walk lazily down an imaginary path that doesn’t require cerebral strain. With an open mind for the genre of juvenile lit, anyone can enjoy passing time with Zoey Dean’s characters. Unless, of course, you get annoyed by silly girls making bad choices, losing the guy because of those choices, and then winding up a winning princess in the end. I’ll admit that I knew all along this novel wouldn’t break new ground for me, but nonetheless I enjoyed the read. Hollywood Is like High School with Money is a pleasant investment of one’s time and will mos’def pass an afternoon.

Written by: Djuna A. Davidson, December 21st 2009