CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 14 . . . . March 17, 2006
Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout are Canadian authors living in Toronto who have teamed up to present Vivien Leigh Reid to the world. These are the first two books of a series, and the pair is currently at work on a third.
In the first novel, Introducing Vivien Leigh Reid, 15-year-old Leigh is sent to Ireland to join her mother, Annika, on the set of Annika's latest film. Leigh gets a bit part in the movie; the costar is a gorgeous young guy, and the entertainment builds from there.
In Now Starring Vivien Leigh Reid, Leigh spends another summer with her mother in order to attend an acting school in Los Angeles. Here, she captures a role in Diamond Heights, a TV soap opera, and once again is attracted to - and distracted by - other actors. Occasionally she isn't sure if she's playing herself or her alter-ego - the soap character Willow.
Students interested in actors and the entertainment industry will undoubtedly enjoy this series which is filled with romance and laughter as well as glimpses into the worlds of both film-making and television production. The backdrops of Ireland and Los Angeles are realistic and provide suitable settings for the action.
Both novels are definitely tongue-in-cheek, with mother and daughter falling frequently into 'over the top' diva roles. Some time is spent on their developing mother/daughter relationship, but this is lost amid the superstar hype surrounding the two of them. Other characters in the books are also exaggerated and superficial, presumably a comment on life in the midst of stardom.
Leigh, herself, is colourful and humorous, but more a caricature than a believable character. The authors seek to give her a tone which fits a 'with it' 15-year-old, but it often comes across as cynical and sassy. Like many young teens, Leigh seems to have difficulty finding the line between 'cute' and simply rude. The books are both written in the first person, and so her attitude is pervasive.
Sections of the novels are dialogues from the movie or soap opera on which Leigh is working, and they add an interesting change of pace to the story as well as giving would-be actors a sense of what it might be like to take on a role, learn lines, be directed on stage, and so on. Leigh's imagination often has her creating scenes in her head and predicting (or at least wishfully thinking!) how events in her personal life will work out. These certainly add to the humour of the books.
Occasionally Leigh's thoughts are expressed in text messages to friends which is another useful device to help readers understand her and to move the plot forward. For example,
Both divas, mother and daughter, are aggravating yet endearing. The plots of both books are familiar and predictable and are basically the same story told twice with new characters and settings. These young adult novels will date easily and quickly and so are unlikely to become classics in a library collection. On the other hand, they are fun-filled and quirky and entertaining for a quick read.
Ann Ketcheson, a former teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French, now lives in Ottawa, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.