Plot: Carter Moon likes living in the small town of Little, California. Her father’s diner, Little Eats, where she works is a fixture of the community. Carter isn’t sure she wants to go to college after high school, so she’s thrown herself into her part-time job. She stargazes each evening on the roof with best friends Chloe and Chloe’s boyfriend nicknamed Alien Drake. Alien Drake writes a blog about their sky watching where he muses on life, celebrity, and the possibility of alien life.
Chloe is very excited that Hollywood Star Adam Jakes will be filming his new Christmas movie in Little. Adam is a teen star who has had some publicity problems lately. He’s fresh out of rehab after a DUI, and looking to make a comeback. Carter is soon offered a deal by Adam’s Manager that if she will pretend to be Adam’s Girlfriend while shooting the new movie she will be financially compensated. Carter takes the deal to help pay gambling debts incurred by her brother. During the course of the fake relationship Carter and Adam form a real attachment to each other. Carter challenges Adam’s fake and insincere world of celebrity fame, and Adam suggests that Carter should pursue college and a career in dance.
Teens will find Carter’s struggles with what she wants to do after school similar to their own concerns. Many will also hear from their parents that they need to leave their small towns for a while before they settle. Those that have a family member struggling with addiction will see their loved ones reflected in Carter’s brother.
While the plot of a fake relationship with a famous person is overdone the book was more captivating than expected. Carter was a well- developed character, and a good narrator. Culbertson brings her to life with struggles, fears, and a down to earth personality which the reader can relate to. Her interactions with her gambling addicted brother ring very true. Her relationship with her parents isn’t strained, and the only strife is over Carter’s reluctance to leave the nest. They are not absent from the story as many parents in young adult novels seem to be. Carter reacts to Adam’s fake Hollywood charm as any normal person would with disgust. She resents it, and spends much of the story trying to pull away his mask.
Adam’s character isn’t as well developed as Carter. He is a typical celebrity trying to make a comeback with a family friendly remake of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The reader gets momentary and slight insight into who he is, but the mask never really comes off. He seems to have no problem faking his relationship with Carter, and is adept at handling people and the paparazzi with ease. We learn almost nothing about his family, friends, or hobbies outside of his career. He’s not thinking of a future after acting, or taking on a cause of some kind. He does care for Carter, and helps with her brother’s debt situation. He offers her a shoulder to cry on, but there isn’t any real growth or change in him by the end of the book.
Alien Drake’s Blog posts are inserted throughout the book, and they move the story along well. They are the most insightful parts of the story relating the cosmos to life here on earth. They depict what a successful blog post should be. They make you think. If your friends are a reflection of you, than Carter is made better by being friends with Alien Drake.
Seventeen-year-old Carter loves her hometown of Little, California, and has no plans to leave, despite her promise as a dancer. She is happy working in her family’s diner, teaching dance at the senior center, and looking out for her brother, whose gambling addiction has cost their family much. Unlike her star struck friend Chloe, Carter is indifferent to the movie being filmed in Little and its ridiculously beautiful star, Adam Jakes, who is as famous for his bad-boy antics as his acting. Adam is interested in her, however—or his manager is. He wants to hire Carter to pose as Adam’s girlfriend to help clean up his image and with her brother’s gambling debt looming, she accepts. It’s not hard to imagine what happens next, but Culbertson excels at crafting sympathetic, believable characters and situations, eschewing reality-show-style drama in favor of a light touch and an emotionally satisfying resolution.
The book would lend itself well to a discussion group. The group could discuss Carter and Adam’s relationship, and the difference between their real interactions and the ones crafted by Adam’s manager. Carter struggles between taking a risk on her dancing dreams or staying safe in her hometown. Is the risk worth taking, and how do we make large decisions like this in our own lives? Groups could discuss issues raised by Alien Drake’s blog posts such as fame, celebrity, star worship, and why we look up at the sky.
Reviewed by Beth K.