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REVIEW: Good for You by Tammara Webber

Dear Ms. Webber:

The first time I came across your books was on Amazon when it recommended that I buy Between the Lines, the first in your Hollywood trilogy, after I had purchased a different YA contemporary. I resisted because there are rarely less interesting characters to me that famous people. Fiction often relies on one’s ability to separate fact from fantasy and the real world often intrudes too heavily when there are real individuals that can intrude into the pages of the book. It’s one reason I dislike when authors shortcut and try to use actors or actresses to describe the looks of a character. Whatever prejudice or bias a reader may have toward that famous person will often overlay any character description the author may write. And, let’s face it, famous people as much as they are interesting to individuals are often viewed with some measure of disdain and distrust.

Good for You Tammara WebberWhat works, however, is that you inject a portion of that wariness into the female protagonist, allowing her to express the ordinary reader’s feelings toward the culture of fame which simultaneously serves to justify the reader’s feelings and empathize with the female protagonist. The female lead is Dori Cantrell, an eighteen year old whose drug of choice is giving of herself. She helps teach young children at Vacation Bible School. She has plans to do a mission trip to Ecuador, her third in as many years. In the fall, Dori will attend UC Berkley and get a social worker degree. Currently, Dori is working with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for a family whose residence was destroyed when a young Hollywood actor drove his car into the front porch.

Reid Alexander became famous too young, had too much money, and too much unfettered access to hedonic pleasures. He isn’t interested in limits and has few people around him willing to impose any on him. His mother is a vacant alcoholic. His father is a successful lawyer whose only real contact with his son is to report on how he is managing Reid’s money. His best friend, John, is a trust fund kid whom Reid suspects loves him and loathes him in equal measures.

Friends ask why I don’t just ditch my dad. I’m nineteen, an adult in every legal sense of the word (except the ability to drink legally, which is annoying as shit). I’m a legitimate Hollywood star, with a manager, an agent, a PR guy, or woman, as the case may be—Dad may have fired Larry when he didn’t move fast enough to save those endorsements last week. That’s the thing. My father takes care of everything. He’s the CEO of my life, and I’m the product. He manages my career, my money, my legal issues… I don’t have to do jack shit but show up for auditions, movie tapings, premieres and occasional commercial endorsements. I can’t stand him any more than he can stand me, but I know he won’t screw me over.

In the end, Reid comes to the realization that in his circle of acquaintances which posture themselves as his friends, a father that won’t screw you over is something of a marvel. It’s both sad and a relief when Reid accepts this form of love from his father.

After his latest reckless stint, Reid’s agent gets Reid bargained down from incarceration to three weeks of heavy duty manual labor at Habitat for Humanity. There he is paired with the only other young working person, Dori. Dori knows who he is. Everyone does but she immediately views him as a dilettante.

I live in Los Angeles, after all, and while I might not run in his circle, or even within the same galaxy as his circle, I know his type: careless, spoiled and heedless of anyone’s needs outside his own. Even with that angel’s face, he cannot be trusted.

For all of Reid’s bad behavior, he is remarkably charming. Part of this comes from the fact that Reid knows exactly who he is and looks upon his own behavior and that of those around him as feckless. He doesn’t engage in any self loathing in the beginning of the book. He is too arrogant and not reflective enough. Reid likes who he is. After all, other than his father, he has no one who ever tells him that he isn’t the greatest piece of ass walking the earth. It is through his interaction with Dori that Reid begins to change, begins to look outside of himself and by doing so comes to recognize that perhaps his current assemblage is in some way defective, or at least, like the house they are fixing up, in need of improvement.

As charismatic as Reid is, Dori made the book for me. An aspiring do gooder social worker who doesn’t swear and whose greatest joy is helping others has every danger of coming off as a preachy bore. Yet she is not. Her desire not to swear, drink or smoke isn’t pushed onto anyone else. It’s truly an integral part of her makeup. Her past, even at a young age, is not without its blemishes. I wasn’t clear whether Dori’s desire to help others came out of some sense of guilt for her past but what makes Reid such a perfect match for Dori is that she allows herself to see human frailty with more compassion, both in herself and in others.

Dori is described as plain. She has long, dark hair and wears baggy clothes. She never becomes more beautiful although when tricked out, she can look good. It’s that her looks become unimportant in the story. There is no real transformative scene that makes Reid look at Dori differently. Reid looks at Dori differently because her internal makeup affects him strongly. Reid’s physical perfectness is actually the flaw in the story, juxtaposed against Dori’s plainness. Dori has a beautiful voice but there is no effort to make her into a rock star at the end of the book.  Her aspirations of being a social worker are deemed to be just as valid as Reid’s pursuit of fame and fortune.

There are so many other well integrated details.  Dori flushes a lot and Reid can tell her moods by the color of her ears. At one point, during an emotional scene, Reid pulls Dori’s hair back so he can see the tips of her ears, her emotional barometer.  Dori’s sister, a resident  in Chicago, plays an important role by falling in love and telling Dori how marvelous it was to have waited for this man, another doctor.  The parents are satellites to the story but in their own way appropriately influential in Reid and Dori’s lives, whether it be for good or bad. John, Reid’s best friend, is authentically portrayed as someone who longs to be Reid and might knife him in the back at the next turn.

The storyline spans the summer and fall and there are surprises in the story that I won’t ruin in the review.  I kept thinking at various times that these are story lines I’m not reading in adult romances and regretting it.  No one in the story is a caricature and it would have been so easy to use these two individuals and provide a superficial story, relying on the reader’s own experiences to fill in the details but Reid and Dori and the whole supportive cast are full bodied. I know some adults resist reading YA and I am not a huge YA fan myself but this is as good of a romance as you’ll find these days. B+

Best regards,

Jane

 

AmazonBN

Note:  The first two books in this trilogy tell the story from four points of view: Graham, a young handsome but role playing actor; Brooke, the young famous starlet; Emma, the young made famous by a big role in a YA remaking of Pride and Prejudice; and Reid, the young very famous actor. These two stories are more soap opera than romance although book two concludes with Graham and Emma cementing the romance started in book 1, Between the Lines. The setting of book 1 is the movie set; book 2 is the publicity tour.

“Good for You” takes you away from Hollywood which is probably part of the reason that I enjoyed it so much more than the first two. I definitely think you can read “Good for You” without having read the first two, neither which I thought were innovative or remarkable stories. You do get a bigger sense of Reid if you’ve read the first two but that is all.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

17 Comments

  1. Elyssa
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 11:23:32

    Okay, I’m reading this one tonight. And then I’ll go back to read the other two.

  2. Lori
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 12:24:59

    This sounds worth trying and I’m not a YA reader but the premise sounds so good.

  3. Loosheesh
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 13:19:11

    @Lori: I’m normally very leery of YA myself but this one is really worth trying. If there are more YAs like this out there, I’ve certainly shortchanged myself from by avoiding the genre.

  4. Jane
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 13:25:07

    @Loosheesh – How did you feel about the mother’s move toward recovery toward the end of the story? It was a little too perfect in a story that seemed about learning to accept and live with the flawed parts of one’s life. There was one particular part of the story that was bittersweet, but I was happy for the non romance ending to the story. It made it seem more authentic to me.

  5. Maili
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 13:41:30

    I usually avoid anything that features actors, Hollywood, film-making, TV crew, TV journalists and similar, but you made this sound really good. I’m getting a copy. Thank you.

  6. Maili
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 13:44:55

    Well, not a copy. Just bought all three. Damn. I’m banning myself from visiting this site for a bit.

  7. trojanwalls
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 13:51:09

    I read this book as soon as it came out, although I had given the second book (Where you Are) in this series a skip. (It’s blurb told me all I needed to know about the story and no one misses out anything by going straight to the third book). I loved Reid in Between the Lines. He was very interesting but I fully expected his transformation from spoilt to good in his own book to happen disappointingly fast and over a girl. That’s how these things work.

    But it didn’t, it didn’t! Well, yes, part of the reason he grew up finally was Dori but the best thing about God for You was that both the protagonists were living distinctly separate lives outside their budding romance – they had individual story lines! And with every thing that had happened in the last two books Reid was primed for a change. Dori was a catlyst, but I really think that if he’d met her a year ago he would never have found himself interested in Dori – he was too blind. (Reid acknowledges this himself in the book).

    This story was such a RELIEF!

  8. Jane
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 15:08:10

    @trojanwalls: A relief is a great word to describe how I felt about the story as well. It could have been very trite and cliched, but instead, Webber took harder paths. The story is relentlessly smooth and engaging. I gobbled it up.

  9. Peggy P
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 18:41:54

    I finished this Thursday night after reading about it on another thread here – and I am not a YA reader, generally. I thought this book was really well done and a plain good story. Loved the characters, loved the secondary characters and thought the pacing was good, thought the dialogue was great and have started saying “popsicles” as a swear word – ok, not really – but it is funny! I haven’t read the other two books but I’ve got the samples and will check them out soon. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for something a little different.

  10. Rita Oberlies
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 19:19:05

    Normally YA isn’t my first inclination when browsing Amazon. However, I have found myself drawn to some authors, including Webber, after hearing good things here and on other social media sites.

    Although I did enjoy the first two books in this series, Good For You turned out to be my favorite. I actually liked the fact that Reid’s mother was making another attempt at sobriety, even though I wasn’t convinced that she would be successful. As a reader I felt that she was trying to mirror her son’s efforts to improve – gaining inspiration from his growth and maturity.

  11. Kaetrin
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 23:06:17

    @Jane. Wait. The “non romance” ending? Dori and Reid don’t end up together?

    I’m not a big YA reader but you are seriously tempting me with your reviews of Ms. Webber’s books.

  12. Jane
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 23:12:48

    @Kaetrin: No, Dori and Reid totally end up together but
    S
    P
    O
    I
    L
    E
    R
    S
    P
    A
    C
    E

    Something bad happens to Dori’s sister and Dori’s sister doesn’t get a romance ending. In many romances, everyone “good” gets a romance ending. That isn’t the case in this story.

    S
    P
    O
    I
    L
    E
    R
    S
    P
    A
    C
    E

  13. Kaetrin
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 01:37:08

    Ok. Thx Jane!

  14. Loosheesh
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 12:25:23

    @Jane: It’s funny you should ask this because that in particular was on my mind a while after I completed the book. At first I felt like you, that it was not in keeping with the overall tone of acceptance, flaws and all. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to see it as @Rita Oberlies: , that she was inspired by Reid’s transformation. Like Rita again, I’m not convinced she’ll be successful and that in itself is, to me, bittersweet.

    But the other ‘spoilery’ thing, yes, I liked the non-romance ending; any other ending would’ve killed the authenticity for me.

  15. Maili
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 14:24:15

    I quite enjoyed the first book in this trilogy. I found myself liking Reid, even with his flaws and his calculating/callous behaviour. He’s clear-eyed and self-aware enough to recognise he’s one angry little bunny and that it still doesn’t excuse his flaws. He knows what he is and makes no apologies for it. Plus, he can be witty and so damn charming. You know it’s a sad state of affairs when you realise that he seems much more mature, clear-eyed, interesting and perhaps complex than the majority of romance heroes.

    I also enjoyed Webber’s portrayal of their industry. She left out the boring bits of the filming to focus on the fun bits, which was great. I admit I laughed really loudly at this bit, just after director Richter says ‘cut’: “He eyes Graham and me, his hand over his mouth, as though he wants to make sure not to say anything until he knows exactly what he means to say.” So unbelievably spot on. It’s irrelevant, but it’s this kind of details that had me enjoying the first book. Well, granted, the biggest omission is the rehearsal period as this is when the cast would meet the first time, before the filming would take place, but I think it makes sense for Webber to leave this one out in order for her plot to work.

    It did drag a bit towards the end, but not enough for me to get cranky. I also felt at times that some characters seem older than they really are. But as Jane pointed out earlier on Twitter, their profession may make them emotionally advanced than the norm. I accept this as a fair point. As a whole, I truly enjoyed ‘Between the Lines’. I look forward to reading the second book today.

  16. Patricia Eimer
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 08:15:21

    Okay going to have to go request this series right now. It sounds really cute.

  17. Jae_Lee
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 15:03:53

    Just popping in to say thanks for this rec! I just finished this book this morning (I started with Between the Lines because I don’t like starting a series in the middle; or end, as it were). You’re right about this being the strongest of the three but I truly enjoyed the whole series. I also have to agree that the situations with Reid and Dori’s families ending on a bittersweet note made the story stronger. If it had ended with happy-sunshine-everything-is-fixed-because-of-love, I would have been happy for the characters but also disappointed and probably wouldn’t be reading the author’s other title.

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