Starlet’s Web, the first book in Carla J. Hanna’s young-adult novels, stars an actress who has tired of her A-List career.
Marie Michael is a successful actress in her late teens. She’s also the daughter of another A-List actress and an actor who left the business (and Marie’s mom) for a quieter life in Montana. But the challenges of being in the spotlight and tangled in Hollywood’s cliché scene—appearances, wild parties, casual relationships and public break ups—has Marie feeling trapped. She realizes that she despises the life created for her, with help from her mom, and wants out.
Amidst her career disillusionment, Marie also realizes that she loves her longtime best friend, Manuel, and is uncertain if she should tell him her feelings. As Marie starts taking control of her career and personal life, she eventually discovers she’s trusted the wrong people for years. And the price may be more than she can emotionally afford.
Hanna places readers into Marie’s life at the perfect moment—the morning of the Golden Globe Awards—and deftly keeps the story’s first half moving at a pleasant pace. Additionally, the Hollywood characters are so well-drawn that they feel like they belong in People magazine.
But while the characters are believable, few are sympathetic, including Marie. Her endless emotional turmoil reads like a jerky rollercoaster ride. And Hanna loses momentum about halfway through her story, as if uncertain what to do with her characters. They end up mired in long conversations about premarital sex that don’t further the story. There is also an odd plot twist involving blatant cruelty that may be jarring to young adult readers.
Hanna has created a romantic tale that shows an intimate view of the movie industry from a teen girl’s perspective that young readers will find interesting. However, the abovementioned plot twist may be difficult for Hanna’s audience to appreciate or understand, creating an overall reading experience that isn’t entirely satisfying.