When I heard the premise for Shanna Mahin's debut novel, "Oh! You Pretty Things", I thought it sounded like like a fun, guilty-pleasure sort of read. It follows Jess, a barista/aspiring chef-turned celebrity assistant. It's about the glitz (and grit) of Hollywood, with a sassy protagonist, strong friendships (and shallow ones) and navigating relationships of all kinds alongside an often ridiculously demanding work schedule.
The friendship - I really liked the relationship between Jess and her friend / roommate Megan. It seemed realistic in that they had fun together and shared confidences, but there were also awkward moments, conflicts, and tearful telephone calls. It felt genuine and I enjoyed that.
The flaws - each and every one of the characters had good qualities and bad, Jess didn't make all the right decisions, she made mistakes, she had issues, she had tough family relationships - in short? She was human.
The humour - working with demanding celebrity clients made for some wild, wonderful and downright ridiculous situations for Jess. Mahin's depiction of this was totally on point, most likely due to the fact that she has some real-life experience in this type of role herself. The very real and often rather unpleasant and/or absurd idiosyncrasies seen behind the facade of celebrity was illustrated really well, I thought, and in a clever, fun and engaging way. It made for an interesting take on the Hollywood scene, especially considering our celebrity-obsessed culture.
The branding: It seemed like every few minutes there was a branded cigarette mention, notably American Spirit. I understand that brand names get dropped when you're writing about people who have lots of designer clothes and bags, but I didn't understand why there was a need to draw attention to the cigarette branding, and so frequently. Basically, if this book was a blog post, I'd definitely guess it had been sponsored: I wasn't a fan of that.
Abandoned storylines: I am a Food Network addict, and so I loved the idea of Jess as an aspiring chef. It seemed to play a large role in some ways - in that it caught the eye of one of her employers, but it was largely unexplored as a plot point. I guess I felt like, if she was "aspiring" mightn't she have had a plan, a dream, something specific to work towards? In addition, there was a half-hearted love interest that sort of disappeared partway through. I thought this was at least a bit understandable considering Jess' über-demanding employment situation, but still. It did leave me with a bit of an unfinished feeling.
Overall, in spite of a few little bumps, I did have a lot of fun reading this book, which is really the main thing that I was looking for going in. I love a bit of an indulgent, easy read like this for tucking under my arm on my way to the beach, settling into the sand for a relaxing afternoon - and I think this novel falls firmly in that category. If you're looking for something similar in a summery beach-read, this would definitely be on my recommend list.