Beach Read of the Week: 'Absolutely True Lies'

A former Hollywood ghostwriter pens a fictional story of what it is like to ghostwrite a novel for a teenage pop star.
Courtesy of Touchstone

In what can best be described as a mash-up of Entourage and The Devil Wears Prada, Absolutely True Lies by Rachel Stuhler emerges as the kind of juicy read that is perfect to whittle away a summer day.

The novel stars relatable cat-lover and sugar-addict Holly Gracin, a recently unemployed entertainment journalist thrust into the spotlight when she takes a job as a ghostwriter. Her client? America’s sweetheart Daisy Mae Dixson, Nickelodeon star and pop singer. But Daisy’s bubbly veneer — and Holly’s hope for an easy assignment — is shattered when Holly is confronted with Daisy’s boozy tendencies, licentious misadventures and a public breakdown. It falls on Holly to resurrect Daisy’s reputation, on top of navigating a love triangle, seedy executives and swarms of paparazzi. Inspired by Stuhler’s own experiences as a ghostwriter (she has three celebrity memoirs under her belt), Daisy bears traces of a number of troubled young stars, including Selena Gomez, Lindsay Lohan and even Justin Bieber.

While some of the characters come off as stock — an actress with plenty of dark secrets, an aspiring writer who isn’t concerned about Hollywood appearance standards, agents only focused on the bottom line — Stuhler makes it clear that falsified public images might be necessary to protect private selves. Daisy and her mother, Faith, become increasingly nuanced, transforming from vapid fan favorites to women struggling against Hollywood’s whims, employees plotting to rob them and addiction.

Holly’s intimate narration gives what feels like a refreshingly real insight into the emotional toll of celebrity. Daisy, whose privacy and respect is often sacrificed for fame, ends up such a fascinating character study that Holly’s friendship and relationship drama become background noise. Both of Holly’s love interests are good-looking heartbreakers who fill stereotypical roles, making their clashes and entanglements a distraction from the story you really want to hear. It is a story where romances are a stepping stool for promotions, checks bounce more often than they clear and even ditzy pop princesses have something up their sleeve and which, ultimately, serves as a reminder of how in Hollywood, honesty is never in style. 

For those unfamiliar with the industry, Absolutely True Lies offers a fascinating peek behind the scenes of household names, and even insiders who may not find anything groundbreaking in Holly’s story will enjoy seeing L.A. favorites — Diddy Reise, SmithHouse — make appearances. With over twenty TV movies and three ghostwritten celebrity memoirs under her belt, Stuhler is no stranger to Hollywood, and the book offers both that insider peek and a pretty sympathetic first-hand account of the personal costs of fame. 

Fun and peppered with plenty of page-turning twists, Stuhler’s debut novel is a perfect beach read, as well as another testament to celebrity fascination. In the end, Holly feels like a friend you want to gossip with, but Daisy remains the person you want to gossip about.

comments powered by Disqus