Visiting Los Angeles is on my to-do list. I’ve never been past Chicago, so a trip to Hollywood itself would be my first journey out west if I ever get there. For now, I feed my perception of the place with movies, TV shows and books set in that part of the country. Absolutely True Lies is one of those novels set in L.A. Written by American author Rachel Stuhler (from the same area I am!), the book offers a perspective of La La Land from a Northeasterner.

Twenty-five-year-old Holly Gracin has lived in Los Angeles for four years, having taken a job there right out of college. She writes for a small magazine, reviewing movies and other low-key events. When the magazine ceases publication and she loses her job, she finds herself facing the possibility of returning to her hometown. That’s when she’s hired to ghostwrite the autobiography of Daisy Mae Dixson, an eighteen-year-old starlet who’s spent most of her life in front of the camera as a Nickelodeon child star. As she shadows Daisy as research for the book, Holly is thrust into the life of the luxury, meeting producers and insiders, traveling to foreign cities and trying to keep up with the world of fame.

I really liked Holly’s character. I’m just about the same age as her and also a (somewhat) struggling writer. I live in a studio apartment in a big city just like she does, and hope to write a full-length book one day. (For now, I’m content with this blog and my day job as a communications coordinator.)

One of the more important topics of this novel is the dark side of fame. Holly discovers that although Daisy seems to be living the dream, her actual life is not what it’s perceived to be. Daisy struggles with depression and the pressure of maintaining an image. This is a reflection of the all too familiar story of child stars having difficulties later in life. Holly also finds that parts of Hollywood are one big “facade,” or having a fake “front” to hide an unpleasant truth.

What also fascinated me is the concept of ghostwriting in the story. Every chapter starts with an excerpt in Daisy’s autobiography. I liked how Stuhler included these passages as a way to contrast what really happens in Daisy’s life versus what’s written. There are countless books in the market that are supposedly written by celebrities, everything from memoirs to self-help books. I’ve always wondered which ones were really written by them and how many are written by someone else. It’s interesting to know that there’s a whole business behind putting someone else’s name on another person’s work (with compensation and permission of course.) Some sources say that ghostwriters can make as much as $50,000 per project. 

Overall, Stuhler’s novel is worth reading, a writer’s journey through the crazy life of Hollywood stars and what being famous is really like.