There is something tragic about dashing out first thing in the morning to purchase a hot-from-the-storeroom copy of Lauren Conrad's debut fiction novel. (Announcing "It's for WORK, we SWEAR" only made the clerks more skeptical.) But from the moment LC announced she'd be penning L.A. Candy, the first in a loosely autobiographical young-adult series, we've been dying of curiosity. Could she write better than she feigned interest in her Hills jobs? Could she write better than she designed A-line jersey dresses? Could she write, period? And how much transparent gossip would L.A Candy contain? We swallowed our pride — for you, dear readers, for YOU — and blazed through Lauren’s magnum opus so that you don't have to. Let’s call it taking one for the team. Here's the verdict:
Thinly Veiled Mudslinging: Marginal.
The gold standard, Nicole Richie's secretly awesome The Truth About Diamonds, refers to the Paris Hilton character as functionally retarded; compared to that, L.A. Candy is practically a love letter. We craved cracks about, say, a douchey, self-impressed blond man of moderate height, minimal intellect, and Mephistophelian facial hair; the best we get is a bitchy, vain boss who becomes a different person for the cameras (Teen Vogue's Lisa Love, mayhap?). But the first 70 or so pages do include copious jabs at girls who move to L.A., bleach their hair, plump their lips, get boob jobs, and become generic, useless bimbos. Hello, Heidi!
Best Dis by Omission: The acknowledgments.
LC thanks none of her cast mates except Lo. Maybe she's hoping none of them can read?
Parallels to Real Life: Basic.
The book hews to the general details: Girl from beach town joins reality show on a whim, gets in over her head. But aside from a bland Whitney-style office-mate who is great at asking leading questions, the only specific similarity to LC's own life is when the heroine, Jane, has embarrassing semi-nude photos leaked to the tabloids by her fame-hungry, villainous female co-star — recalling the summer Spencer Pratt spread the infamous sex-tape rumor about Lauren. Even the scene-obsessed Hollywood boys don't bear much resemblance to Brody Jenner, or Lauren's myriad exes. Maybe LC didn’t realize these books are only fun if the reader is busy ferreting out which character is based on which real-life celebrity. Or, in this case, “celebrity.”
Behind-the-Scenes Hills Insight: Obvious.
Shoots for the show within the book are scheduled meticulously, locations aren't spontaneous, the show provides telegenic accommodations, and the edits don't reflect reality. Shocking! But the executive producer is portrayed as a scheming puppet-master who arranges plot twists without cluing in the cast, and doesn't want his main characters to follow their hearts if it won't lead to good ratings. So we assume LC didn't invite her former bosses to the book party.
Name-dropping: Predictably limited.
Plenty of locales familiar to anyone who watches The Hills make a cameo, from Les Deux — scene of so many Speidi-related tear-fests — to an awkwardly gushy description of the boutique Madison. And we give props to Lauren for setting a pivotal scene at sports bar Big Wangs, if only because it’s the most amusingly named bar in town. But we wish she'd tossed in offhand references to actual people, for verisimilitude; presumably her lawyers disagreed.
Level of Soap-iness: Too low for a summer read.
People booze and backstab, but no character’s motives or actions are surprising or terribly unique. In fact, this entire enterprise could stand to be more scandalous — can’t someone develop a raging coke habit or accidentally sleep with her own cousin? We suggest LC spend some quality time in front of SoapNet before penning the sequel.
Quality of Author Photo: Hilarious.
Lauren looks tremendously serious in the full-size head shot plastered on the back of the book. We're shocked they didn’t also make her wear glasses and hold a pencil.
Quality of Actual Writing: Better than anticipated.
The bookstore salesman asked us, “Do you think she actually wrote this?” We shrugged. In truth, while we’re sure Lauren had plenty of help, it’s also not wholly unbelievable that she did much of it herself. Should she be clearing any room off her mantle for the National Book Award? No. But words are spelled correctly, sentences are properly constructed, and the plot and structure hold together. Admit it: That's more than you expected.
Overall Quality: Totally average.
Since LC's clothing lines were uninspired at best, in a way L.A. Candy's cheerful mediocrity is its biggest success. But it would have been more entertaining if it hewed to an extreme — incredibly terrible, bizarrely cracked-out, or, in the best-case scenario, wickedly witty and juicy. There's little point in a dishy roman à clef if you don't include heaps of actual, recognizable dish, so for book two, may we suggest a character named Claudrina who just can’t get over “Dustin-Robby,” a tool with an increasingly horrifying array of headwear? Throw your readers a gossipy bone, Lauren, and they’ll come back for more. You can thank us later.
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