In brief: Franny is trying to be an actress in New York. She’s given herself a date to ‘make it’ by, but can she do it?
The good: Lovely coming of age novel set in 1995, so the characters rely on faxes, answering machines and face to face communication.
The not-so-good: The ending was somewhat abrupt for me.
Publisher: Viking (Penguin Books)
My rating: 8.5 out of 10
Did you know that Lauren Graham is an actress from The Gilmore Girls? I didn’t until the end of this book (admittedly, I was reading an eBook which made it difficult to read that statement on the cover). I was attracted to this book because of the picture on the cover – I’ve never been able to ride a bike with no hands and a heroine who can do that must have some redeeming traits! So I can honestly say that I went into this book with no preconceptions as to who Lauren Graham is and which characters she’s played.
Franny (named after the J.D. Salinger story Franny – you’d have to wonder if she’s the other part of Zooey Deschanel) is a struggling actress in New York. She’s given herself three years to make it big – if doesn’t work out, then she’ll go back to her lawyer boyfriend and do other stuff. So far, things are not looking good after one local commercial. This is the story of the trials of auditions, classes and a boyfriend that’s a little weird. Does Franny make it big? Will she ever rise from the mass of struggling actors?
The book is set in 1995, which at first seems like no big deal. I mean, there were still TV and electricity and stuff! But as you read on you realise the number of changes that have occurred (particularly in relation to technology) in less than 20 years. Franny doesn’t have internet – and if she did, it would be dialup. In fact, nobody seems to use the internet and only one character (Dan) uses a computer (a laptop, which probably had a battery life of half an hour). Franny doesn’t have a mobile phone – she calls her home answering machine to check her messages from a phone box. When was the last time you used a public phone? Franny’s major piece of technology is the fax machine – which she buys rolls of paper for (remember that paper and the tendency for it to fade?). So without a You Tube channel or talent show to break the big time, Franny needs to do the hard yards as an actress. That means going to endless auditions, classes and meetings to try to make the big time.
The first thing that wowed me in this book is that there are pages of Franny’s diary (sorry, Filofax – that’s the diary you had before the iPhone) facsimiled on the pages. I love that sort of stuff! Add in copies of Franny’s scripts and numerous answering machine messages and this book automatically achieves approval from me. Those parts are like the little extra extracts from the character’s life that make them seem even more real. Franny is completely lovable – she’s got her faults and Graham’s not afraid to show them. She’s a bit disorganised and a bit of a klutz (which works in her favour). Her relationship with The Actor Who Has a Job, James Franklin (or Franco?) is much more annoying. James is an odd, mysterious character who only gives Franny the time of day when he feels like it. She idiotically laps this up, enthralled by his movie star status at the detriment of everything else. Fortunately, Franny ultimately redeems herself…
…or does she? The ending was rather abrupt for me (so much so that I checked a paperback copy in case the last chapter had been removed from the eARC). While it does have hope, it leaves a lot of questions in the air. This seems to me like it means one of two things: that’s there a sequel (I would be very happy with this) or that you as the reader need to decide Franny’s fate. While I don’t expect to be told every single detail of what happened, I would have liked things to end on a more concrete note.
All in all, this is a sound debut novel that is fun, entertaining and genuinely had me wanting to read more. Perfect summer reading!