I received My Favourite Manson Girl in exchange for an honest review.
“All of those girls were children of America, reckless children. Heartless children. Cruel children who hated their parents. They confused love and hate, death and life.”
Fifteen-year-old Anna feels like everything is going wrong in her life. So she steals a credit card, and runs away from home to live with her sister in Las Vegas, where she’s immersed in the weird and wonderful world of celebrity, sunshine and secrets.
This book was surprisingly clever and multilayered, whilst still offering a YA easy read suitable for teens. I was a little surprised to be reading about a protagonist as young as 15, but Anna is portrayed well. She is realistically immature, she makes some questionable decisions, but she’s sympathetic and doesn’t ever verge into plain irritating.
Her sister, Delia, is equally well-written; in some ways she’s a stereotypical self-centered LA actress living on a diet of clean eating and yoga, but she’s got a vulnerable side. In a city filled with beautiful people, everyone has insecurities and, through Delia, the author creates a believable, sympathetic portrayal of a struggling actress grasping for that big break.
It’s quite difficult to describe the exact plot in this novel. It’s more of a meandering exploration of the good, bad and the ugly of LA, a coming-of-age tale, with a little bit of Manson history thrown in. Anna is asked to research the group for a movie in the making, and as she learns more about them, she begins to draw parallels with her own journey to LA.
“And just for a second, maybe because it was California and you could understand how truly vomit-worthy fame could be only when you were right up next to it, I almost, kind of, understood what it might have been like to be a Manson girl.”
I’m not sure how much the Manson element added to the story for me. Considering the UK title (the title in America was American Girls, which I personally think makes a lot more sense), there was really very little about the Manson girls, this is much more a straightforward YA summer read . I was expecting something a little darker – particularly having recently devoured Emma Cline’s The Girls, I was really looking forward to reading another viewpoint on the notorious ‘family’ and constantly looking for the dark twist which never really fully materialised.
Still, as a YA coming-of-age story this novel certainly succeeds; I’ve seen so many rave reviews for it an I can see why. Umminger writes with a sense of wit and realism, touching on some serious topics without ever dwelling on the melancholy. The book is littered with touches of humour and satirical observations – “One afternoon in the Whole Foods parking lot and anyone can see that once the patchouli clears, those vegans would slice you for a parking space.” – which any reader will enjoy.