REVIEW: According to a Source by Abby Stern

In brief: Ella Warren is always at Hollywood’s coolest clubs and hottest parties. But she’s there as a spy for a gossip magazine – what is really going on in the lifestyles of the rich and the famous. When her job is on the line, the only way to keep it is to keep up the gossip, but does Ella have limits?

The good: Hollywood is always a fascinating backdrop for a story and Ella’s job makes for interesting reading.

The not-so-good: I didn’t really understand why one of the fictional star’s lives mirrored a real one until the big reveal.

Why I chose it: Borrowed it from the library.

Year: 2017

Pages: 287

Publisher: Thomas Dunne (Pan Macmillan)

Setting: Hollywood

Rating: 8 out of 10

I’m not too sure how I first came across According to a Source, but I think it was Goodreads telling me I might like this book. So when I saw my library had it on order, I reserved it. It is a light story that is both coming of age and owning up to your mistakes.

I do love a book set in Hollywood, but Ella has a unique occupation that I haven’t really come across before. She’s a freelance writer for gossip magazine/website The Life, which means that she goes to the hottest clubs and celebrity hangouts in Hollywood to see what celebrities are up to and reports on it. She is the woman behind those ‘according to a source’ stories you see in magazines. Ella has a regular night at Chateau Marmont and a night at a club. It’s there she becomes Bella, who is way more outgoing and takes more than a few surreptitious trips to the bathroom (to record her observations in her phone). It means a lot of nights out, hanging around drinking and waiting, but Ella loves it…until the cracks start showing. First, there’s the split with her boyfriend that has her moving into It-girl and rising star Holiday Hall’s home. This gives Ella access to more parties and more celebs, as well as hot agent Nick. It’s just as well as the new editor of The Life is cracking down with a new points system – find quality gossip or lose your job. And there’s no way Ella is going to lose…

One of the fun things in According to a Source is trying to pick the celebrities. Nobody is mentioned by their name, only monikers like “Middle-Aged Self-Proclaimed Bachelor Actor” and “Boybander Turned Solo Artist Turned Actor”. Some are easy (if in fact they are based on real people), some are not. There is one star, “Not-So-Innocent Oversexualised Pop Star” who is easy to name by her public meltdown and name. It got me thinking as to why a real event (or as real as I know it through the gossip mags) was portrayed in a fictional novel. I found it a bit weird. But the star does reappear in Ella’s life in the most unexpected of places and it’s not what you were expecting… I wasn’t 100% sure what to make of this – would it have as big an impact if the star and events were totally fictional?

According to a Source is a bit predictable in Ella’s journey from self-absorbed gossip spy to becoming aware of the detrimental impact of her observations and nearly losing it, but it’s a fun ride. There are plenty of twists and turns in the story, as well as some serious moments as Ella deals with the fall out. There is always something happening as the plot jumps from Hollywood to Ella’s nearly as complex personal life. It’s light-hearted fun that would be a great weekend or holiday read. Abby Stern tells an engaging story and hey, if it isn’t rocket science, who cares? It’s more fun!

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