Book Review: Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

Close to Famous: Bauer, Joan: 9780142420171: Books

Title: Close to Famous

Author: Joan Bauer

Genre: Realistic YA Fiction

Number of Pages: 250

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes

Even though Close to Famous isn’t going to change anyone’s life, it’s a nice feel-good read and a welcome departure from the darker stuff I usually gravitate towards. It’s Southern small town-type story narrated by Foster, a twelve-year-old baking aficionado. At the beginning of the story Foster and her mom are taken under the wing of local eccentrics when they escape her mom’s abusive boyfriend and end up rudderless in the middle of nowhere.

All her life people have treated Foster like she’s dumb because she has a serious dyslexia problem, but she starts to flourish in the unfamiliar new environment. She also finds an unlikely mentor in an aging actress who’s known for being a bit of a prima donna, and befriends a boy who’s as crazy about filmmaking as she is about baking

Okay, so this isn’t the most original setup and it took me a while to get into this book. One of the reasons was that the characters were mostly your standard run-of-the-mill wacky Southerner types and the way they were presented felt over-the-top. I really started liking Foster’s character though and I ended up getting into the groove of the story and enjoying it. Close to Famous does a good job on portraying tough subject matter in a light way without making an insult out of it.

Foster’s mom’s ex-boyfriend (an Elvis enthusiast with a hair-trigger temper) is less scary than you would expect, especially since he’s physically abusive. Even though he was a bumbling fool, though, you really get a palatable sense of the mark he’d made on their lives and particularly on the self-esteem of Foster’s mom. I still think the darker moments in the story were skimmed over a little too much but that’s also what makes it a light read. I was just so-so on a lot of aspects of the book but getting to see the main character come out of her shell made it worth it for me.

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