Unrivaled is not your typical book. It’s supposed to be a suspense/thriller set in the bright lights of Hollywood and told from four different perspectives. The premise is ultimately a good one but the writing is overly simplistic and the characters are too stereotyped and clichéd to appeal to adults (although this could be perfectly pitched at the young adult readers the novel was designed for).
Alyson Noël is a successful author of over 20 books and is a New York Times best-seller whose work has been translated into multiple languages. Her latest offering, Unrivaled is the first in a new trilogy called, “Beautiful Idols.” It’s a young-adult novel and I think this may be why I had trouble engaging with the story. As a 32 year old Australian woman with only a passing interest in celebrity (and a distinct hatred of anyone that is famous for the sake of being famous) I found this story to be too vapid, slow and superficial.
The story begins with the mysterious disappearance of Hollywood It-girl, Madison Brooks. She is someone that is harbouring a number of secrets but she is certainly not alone on this front. The story then turns back time to a month prior where we meet three young, hungry teens who have agreed to take part in a contest run by a Hollywood heavyweight called Ira Redman. The competition will see an aspiring entertainment journalist named Layla, a wannabe musician called Tommy and a bratty would-be actress named Aster competing with other desperate teens to become a full-time promoter for one of Redman’s clubs. To do so they must get people through the door of one of his establishments and the more famous the guest, the better.
The book is a slow-burner and it spends a lot of time detailing the competition and the lengths the characters will stoop to. Even with all of this information, the characters still feel rather hollow and not fully formed, especially when they do things that are completely unexpected. The story of the competition also lacks suspense and it merely unfolds amidst the expected world of hidden agendas, dirty laundry, secrets, lies and the like. The book really hits its stride when it manages to catch up with the part of Brook’s disappearance but it ends in such an unsatisfying and abrupt way in order to leave things open for the sequel that some readers may walk away feeling cheated by this turn of events.
Unrivaled is a dark novel that shows how ambitions can turn poisonous with a bunch of unlikeable and self-absorbed characters that seem like a reflection of today’s society. Noël is a good writer but this novel is a flat one, as it details some beautiful people’s competitive natures in the seedy underbelly of Hollywood. It was a book that wasn’t to my liking but the kids may enjoy this easy-to-read tale of celebrity thrills and spills.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-unrivaled