Author: Allison Rushby
Author's Website: http://allisonrushby.com/
Publisher: Walker Books (Bloomsbury)
Released: February 28, 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Library eBook
Jo - or Zo Jo, as she's known in the paparazzi world - just landed the job of a lifetime. It's a job that will get her out of the papping world and into real photography school to learn portrait photography, her real dream. But it's also a low-down, dirty, dishonest, sleazy, and downright wrong job. She's going to pose as a client in an exclusive retreat in order to get shots of a star who's in there, a star who has become extremely elusive in the past years. To make matters worse, Ned Hartnett is the one star who has ever been nice to her, so taking pictures of him when he obviously just wants to get away from it all is even worse. She takes the job. But nothing could prepare her for what happens "on the inside" - not her feelings for Ned, not what she finds out about him, or about the job, or about herself.This was one of those rare times that I finished a book in only a couple of sittings. The pages just turned themselves! The surprises and twists kept coming, tension is constant, Jo's struggles so raw and immediate, that I was pulled into the story and went with the current.
Jo herself is a very likable character. Her choices are real and difficult, and they play out very realistically too. I like how most of the story takes place over only a few days, but every moment is hard for Jo as she has to deal with moment-by-moment decisions, so time feels stretched out - the way it would feel interminable while she waits for contact from the outside world to help her make decisions about what to do.
Besides that, though, her attitude is so great! I love when she has her outbursts in group sessions and in workshops - when she loses control of herself and lets loose, especially when Brad, the counselor, finally gets to her and we find out something shocking about her. She has this tough facade, but underneath it, she's really this confused little girl. And her relationship with Ned helps fix that, her whole journey throughout this mess forces her to grow up and make difficult choices, to face herself and decide who she really is. I love how that's portrayed - so subtly that it's hard to pinpoint when exactly this change happens, because it's realistic that it happens gradually. It's really an art to show that gradual transformation, and Allison does that beautifully.
I love the secondary characters also. They all have such distinctive personalities, and each one interacts with Jo in a different way and brings out a different aspect of her. That's amazing - the way Jo's character is teased out through these interactions, the way each of these characters adds to the story by serving as a counterpoint for what Jo is experiencing.
This whole book is very character-driven, and to be honest, that's my favorite kind of book. Yes, there are surprising twists, and the plot is very important, but it's how each character deals with those surprises that really makes the story. A real winner!