By Joel Hanek
It seems that everyone on "The Hills" is an entrepreneur these days — but only one of them (for now) can call herself an author: Lauren Conrad! LC’s debut as an author, "L.A. Candy," is the first book of her Hollywood trilogy about a couple of teen girls on a reality show.
Much like the show she recently vacated, the book has the same target demographic of teenage girls. And while I'm not a teenage girl (or at least pretty sure of it) thanks to being a part of MTV Detox I have become a "Hills" aficionado. So as a person who is an obsessive watcher of the series, I, of course, picked up Ms. Conrad’s book.
The two protagonists, Jane and Scarlett, move out to L.A. in the hopes of encountering bigger and better things than their quaint Santa Barbarian lives. Once in Hollywood, the girls are discovered by a smarmy producer who promises them fame and fortune as media icons in exchange for their free will and normal lives. The plot sounded strangely familiar, so I found myself checking the cover of the book several times while reading to make sure I hadn't accidentally picked up "Josie and the Pussycats: The Novelization." Just kidding, it's about a reality show, not a band, so it’s totes different.
Although Lauren told MTV that "L.A. Candy" has no basis of its plot or characters from "The Hills" there is clearly a reality/fiction overlap. While the differences are conspicuous (for example, there is a flamboyant character who is alluded to being gay — however, if you watch “The Hills” you would be led to believe that there are no homosexuals in Los Angeles. Or black people, or Asians… etc.) While Lauren weaves in and out of an allegory about the virtues of friendship, the novel really reads like an exposé on “reality shows” from a wily ol’ vet. Considering that she rose to fame from a reality show based in L.A., the most unexpected aspect of the novel is how critical of a portrait Lauren paints of Hollywood — characters frequently criticize a majority of the L.A. scene-sters as “blond clones,” begging to fall into to stereotypes, or falling into other forms of physical conformity. If it is an insider looking out and deconstructing at a shallow scene from within, you could say that Lauren Conrad is kind of like the Bret Easton Ellis for tweenage-girls ... minus the nihilism, gore, and meddling with literary time signatures. And while the novel does condemn the shallowness of certain fame-seeking behavior, there is a seemingly odd appraisal of materialism because while the characters are fictional there are real events, places, labels, and locations fleshed out in glamorizing detail (there’s even a passage explaining what bottle service is).
But hey, if anyone from “The Hills” is promoting literacy, then way to go! The book is meant for the same female reality fans of her shows and it delivers in providing what they seek: boy/girl drama explained in text-speak (WTF, TMI, and OMG are frequently used as exposition into character’s mindsets), and privileged information from a reality show set. One of my favorite aspects of the book (which was a little bit more surprising than her critique of L.A.) were the many literary references sprinkled throughout the narrative. For example, she name-drops authors James Joyce and García Márquez, playwrights Edward Albee and David Mamet, philosopher René Descartes and feminist Catherine McKinnon. If Lauren Conrad gets a fan of “The Hills” to go out and read “One Hundred Years of Solitude" — which is noted as the favorite book of one of the characters in "L.A. Candy" — because they were innocuously exposed to a great work of literature through this medium, then way to go LC!
Have you read "L.A. Candy" yet? If yes, what did you think?