Unrivaled

Unrivaled by Alyson Noel

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Layla Harrison wants to leave her beach-bum days for digs behind a reporter’s desk. Aster Amirpour wants to scream at the next casting director who tells her “we need ethnic but not your kind of ethnic.” Tommy Phillips dreams of buying a twelve-string guitar and using it to shred his way back into his famous absentee dad’s life.

But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her bitch a long time ago.

She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.

That is, until Layla, Aster, and Tommy find themselves with a VIP invite to the glamorous and gritty world of Los Angeles’s nightlife and lured into a high-stakes competition where Madison Brooks is the target. Just as their hopes begin to gleam like stars through the California smog, Madison Brooks goes missing… And all of their hopes are blacked out in the haze of their lies.

— From the book jacket of Unrivaled

Despite her parents’ plans for a perfect Persian life, Aster dreams of making it big in Hollywood. If only she could get her big break…

Layla wants nothing more than to leave her LA life behind for a journalism degree in New York. But her artist father hasn’t sold a piece in awhile, and with the money running out, she’ll never be able to afford it.

Tommy has packed up his life and moved halfway across the country, not just to break into the music business, but to connect with the father he’s never met. So far he’s only managed to land a job at a guitar shop, score one gig at a coffee shop playing John Mayer covers, and he’s had zero luck on the dad front.

But Madison? She’s already done it all. She’s taken over Hollywood as the hottest star around. She’s at the top of the A-list and has everything she could possibly ever dream of. As long as the past she’s worked so hard to bury stays that way.

When the owner of the biggest nightclub franchise in Hollywood holds a contest to become club promoters, Aster, Layla and Tommy all jump at the chance. Not only is there a huge cash prize for the winner, but being a promoter is an opportunity too huge to pass up. Rubbing elbows with Hollywood elite could mean a big break for Aster. Layla has been tossing around the idea of jump starting her journalism career with a celebrity news blog, and what better way to get all the juiciest dirt than to witness it firsthand. And Tommy figures this is the best way to connect with his long lost father–who just happens to be the club owner.

To be crowned the winner, they’ll have to increase their club’s attendance, and make sure they’re bringing in the people who matter. People like Madison Brooks. As the competition heats up, so do their plans for coming out on top. How far will they go to try to win? When Madison mysteriously disappears after a night at one of the clubs, Aster, Layla, and Tommy are all suspects. But in Hollywood, nothing is ever quite what it seems.

If you’re looking for a deep, thought-provoking novel about an insider’s view of the dark side of Hollywood night life, you might want to put this one back. You won’t find it here. But if you’re looking for a fluff book about some kids who enter an Apprentice-like contest to be promoters for Hollywood’s hottest club owner and a couple celebrities that maybe aren’t exactly what they appear to be, then this might work out for you. Because, let’s be honest– this isn’t Printz Award worthy, by any stretch.

This was absolutely a cover draw for me. I’ve read most of Alyson Noel’s Evermore series, and I enjoyed them, so when I saw Unrivaled come in at work, I thought I’d give it a try, even though I knew pretty much nothing about it. I started it after having a pretty awful day, so I was totally in the mood for some fluff that I didn’t have to think about. And it delivered. At least on the fluff front. The story though… While I was entertained by it (especially the song chapter titles), it fell a little flat for me.

I just had too many issues with it. Some of them minor, like how the characters were referred to by their whole names throughout the WHOLE book. I’m pretty good at telling the characters apart pretty quickly most of the time. I mean, it’s okay to call her Aster Amirpour in chapter three, when we’re introduced to her. But by chapter forty-eight… Now it’s just irritating. Also, I had a huge issue with how skeezy Ira seems to be. Like major skeeze vibes. Major. It just creeps me out. Or Layla starting a celebrity news blog that the hottest star in Hollywood instantly reads and knows enough about to recognize Layla by sight within a month of publishing. (If only that were the case… Hey, John Green? Are you out there reading this now? Hi! Big fan! No? Not there? Yeah… That’s what I thought.)

But those are minor. The major issue? I just didn’t care. I didn’t care who scored the most gets from their list. I didn’t care who won the contest. I didn’t care about what Madison was hiding from her past. I didn’t care what happened to her and why she disappeared. None of the characters had any real redeeming qualities. They were all pretty two-dimensional and there wasn’t a single one I wanted to root for to win. It was all fairly predictable and it didn’t leave me wanting more. There are continual hints at some big secret Madison is hiding from her past, but nothing is ever revealed. Give me something juicy that makes me think, “Wow! I didn’t see that coming!” Not even the ending twist did that for me.

But even though I had issues with the story and I didn’t really care about the characters, I can’t say I hated it. It was fluff right when I needed to read fluff. Sometimes you just need a break from complicated plot lines and books that make you think. Sometimes you need fluff, and that’s exactly what this was. It’s been years since I’ve read them, but Unrivaled feels very reminiscent of Lauren Conrad’s L.A. Candy series. Same stereotypical LA characters, same stereotypical LA scene, same lack of depth to the story. But still fairly entertaining as long as you can look past all of that.  It’s like the trashy reality TV that you know is rotting your brain, but you just can’t stop watching. (Like LC’s Laguna Beach… Man, I loved that show!) However.. Unlike the Lauren Conrad series, I probably won’t be back for round 2 of this one.

Because of drinking, language, and sexual relationships, I’d put this one in the high school level category.

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Unrivaled by Alyson Noel
Format: Hardcover – List Price: $17.99
ISBN: 9780062324528
Buy your copy here: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Nook, Kindle, and Audible

Find out more about Alyson Noel

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