Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lulu Dark and the Summer of the Fox (book) by Bennett Madison

It's the beginning of summer and all Lulu wants to do is have perfectly ordinary, non-crime-solving fun with her best friend Daisy, with her only problem being what to do about her friend-turned-boyfriend, Charlie, who has become less fun and more clingy since they started dating. No such luck for Lulu. Her mother, a flaky actress named Isabelle, drops into Halo City unannounced in order to shoot a movie. Isabelle hasn't been the best mother (Lulu's father and his partner are much more reliable), but Lulu is still cautiously optimistic that her mother might actually keep her promise and meet with her for pastries. Unfortunately, Lulu's mother disappears, and Lulu finds herself investigating a mysterious person known as the Fox. The Fox has been causing problems for a gorgeous young actress named Lisa Lincoln (who, by the way, seems to have her eye on Lulu's boyfriend - and he's not doing a lot to discourage her). Is the Fox connected to Isabelle's disappearance? Is Isabelle the Fox, making a statement about the show biz industry's treatment of older female actresses?

Lulu seemed to me like the super-trendy, somewhat fluffy type, not the sort of character I really identify with. Her boyfriend Charlie is mega-rich, Lulu's family is at least comfortably well off, and I think the same goes for Daisy (who, by the way, can kick butt like someone from a martial arts movie). I wasn't sure how I'd like the book, but it turned out to be an okay read.

Although Lulu has apparently had crime-solving success in the past, investigating doesn't seem to be something she knows too much about. She does seem to excel at going places she shouldn't, which is how she manages to find various clues, and she's got that attitude that so many confident, trendy characters seem to have that convinces others (a police officer, a celebrity gossip columnist, and a bunch of bus riders) to help her out. Luck is also a factor, plus her determination to find her mother and, eventually, Charlie and Lisa when they are kidnapped by the Fox.

Lulu's relationship with Charlie was interesting. For the most part, Madison doesn't often write scenes with Charlie and Lulu together, since Lulu spends a good portion of the book avoiding Charlie. She doesn't like his clingy-ness (he always wants to know where she is and what she's doing) and the way he seems to have stopped having his own opinions since they started dating. However, that doesn't mean she's happy when she sees Lisa on TV, hanging on Charlie's arm. I was amazed and a little impressed that Madison didn't decide to just neatly fix Charlie and Lulu's relationship by the end of the book. The state of their relationship by the end of the book may upset those who've read the first book, and unfortunately there isn't a third book (yet?) that either matches Lulu up with someone else or begins to mend things with Charlie. For a reader like me who began with this, the second book, however, it wasn't too upsetting. This book just didn't tell me enough about Charlie for me to really feel anything when Lulu and Charlie had their final relationship heart-to-heart.

Lulu's father was a bit of a surprise to me. I believe he's labeled gay in the book, but I think it might actually be more accurate to call him bisexual, since he still seems to have some very fond memories of his times with Lulu's mother and others. He, his partner, and Lulu live together, and it seems to be a nice, happy, and stable family relationship, which is great, since it doesn't seem like Isabelle could handle the practical aspects of parenting. Of course, Lulu's father's partner, Theo, flakes out, too, when it's convenient for the plot - otherwise, Lulu would never have been able to get out of the house to save everyone.

The aging actresses aspect was interesting to me, too. I mean, it's got to be frustrating that so many female actresses just can't get certain parts anymore once they hit a certain age. Back when I used to watch soap operas, it always struck me as a little unfair that some of the male actors were still getting romantic/sexy/whatever scenes even as their hair grayed and they developed wrinkles, while a lot of the female actresses didn't (or they were just flat out replaced).

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • The Princess Diaries (book) by Meg Cabot - Mia Thermopolis is basically an average 9th grader, although her mother is a semi-famous painter and the two of them live in Greenwich Village. Her looks are average and she doesn't really stand out at school. Mia figures she only has to deal with normal teenage problems, until she finds out that her father is not just a European politician, but rather the prince of the small country of Genovia. Mia is now considered the crown princess of Genovia, and she has no idea how to cope. Although this isn't a mystery, Cabot's writing style occasionally reminds me of Madison's. Those who'd like to read about another teen trying to deal with a world going crazy around her (going crazy in ways many teens would kill for) might want to try this, although prospective readers should be warned that this is written in a diary format (the "diaries" part of the title should give that away, but, just in case...).
  • Nancy Drew (live action movie) - When Nancy Drew's father goes to LA on a prolonged business trip, she gets to go with him, but she has to promise him that she won't do any investigating or crime-solving. This turns out to be an impossible promise for her to keep, as she begins investigating the mystery of a murdered movie actress (whose former home they happen to be staying in). The Nancy Drew of this movie reminds me a great deal of Lulu Dark - those who'd like another girl-sleuth story might want to try this.
  • Undead and Unwed (book) by MaryJanice Davidson - Undead and Unwed is the first book in a series about Betsy Taylor, a fashion- and shoe-obsessed woman who unexpectedly becomes a vampire. Not just any vampire, either - she's the queen of the vampires. She's got to deal with a sexy vampire named Eric Sinclair, a very evil vampire named Nostro, and new abilities she doesn't know anything about. Those who'd like something else with a fashion-conscious main character and a bit of action and adventure might want to try this. However, be warned that this series and book is intended for adults - there are a few sex scenes that might be too graphic for some teens.
  • Got Fangs? (book) by Katie Maxwell - This is the first book in Maxwell's Goth Series. Fran is tagging along with her mother, who's part of a Goth faire traveling in Europe. Fran has the ability to read people with her touch, but she hates her ability and feels like a freak because of it. A young man shows up and tells her that he's a vampire and she's his Beloved, the only person who can lift his curse. Although Benedikt is sexy, Fran's a bit resistant. Besides her sexy vampire problem, Fran also has to figure out who is robbing the faire. Those who'd like another YA story with mystery, action, and some relationship issues might want to try this.

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