Being Hartley-Allison Rushby
Publication Date: March 1, 2014
***I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review from the Patchwork Press via NetGalley
Plot: Being Hartley is a coming of age novel told from the perspective of 15-year-old Thea Wallis. Thea comes from a legendary Hollywood family of actors, dancers, and award winners. Thea has the tell-tale Hartley hair, golden curly locks of fame. Thea’s mother has tried desperately to keep Thea out of the spotlight, even moving their home to Tasmania and keeping Thea from her family and any activities that may show signs of the Hartley talent. Thea is fed up, she yearns to shine like the rest of her family but is constantly thwarted by her mother. Thea yearns to be a dancer, hip hop despite her ballet frame and is extremely envious of her cousin Rory’s spot on the popular Saturday Morning Dance show. Because Thea has been so sheltered, her cousins are her best friends, she doesn’t have any other friends, she never got the opportunity to make any and because of this she’s incredibly lonely. When Thea’s cousin Rory disappears in L.A., Thea’s mother is called in to be a mother figure to Rory, to guide her through her transition from a child to adult star and keep her from going off the deep end. Rory is sick of everything. Dancing used to be fun but when a new producer gutted the show and is planning on updating it for a more racy, older audience, Rory feels trapped in a contract that she no longer has the heart to fulfill. Thea is used to Rory confessing everything to her and when secrets come out, Thea feels more betrayed that she thought was possible. Thea is tossed into the reality of Hollywood and the expectations and dangers she had never been exposed to because of her mother’s careful protection. Being Hartley is a humbling story of shattered dreams, new reality, and self discovery.
Fifteen-year-old Thea Wallis was born to entertain. Her mother, Oscar winning actress Cassie Hartley, thinks differently and has kept her daughter out of the spotlight since day one. Coming from showbiz royalty, it hasn’t been easy to go unnoticed, but mismatched surnames, a family home in Tasmania and a low-key scriptwriter father has made this possible.
Just like her cousin Rory on the hugely popular TV show Saturday Morning Dance, Thea loves to dance. She learns the show’s routines off by heart each week, despite her mother’s attempts to convince her that dentistry would be a far more fulfilling career choice.
However, when Rory goes off the rails in LA, Thea’s mother is suddenly left with no choice at all – Rory needs them and to LA they must go. Within forty-eight hours, Thea finds herself a long way from Tasmania and living her dream – on the road to Las Vegas with the Saturday Morning Dance team.
It doesn’t take long before Thea’s talents are discovered and she’s offered everything she’s ever wanted on a plate, including the dance partner she’s had a crush on forever. But, as her mother has always told her, Hollywood dreams come at a price. Thea soon realizes she will have to work out just how much she’s willing to pay. And, ultimately, discover her own way to be Hartley.
- Being Hartley is for the younger end of the YA spectrum, it’s borderline children’s fiction. Thea is very young and naïve. She’s fulled by that wonderfully vibrant and spirited mix of stubborn surety and bashfulness. Thea is cautious, she makes some hilarious comments but is always careful, analyzing the situation before speaking her mind, afraid of the backlash and upsetting her older cousin. She wants to be trusted and is a great listener. She’s there for her cousin’s in a completely understanding and candid way. Thea is worried about her cousins to the point that she reminds them to eat and to be calm. She’s attentive and wide-eyed in her innocence. As the blinders come down, Thea is awakened to the harsh reality and wisdom of her mother’s lifestyle choices for her.
- Thea’s relationship with her parents is imperfect, it’s real, broken, and filled with Thea’s hurt. Thea can’t understand why the rest of her family gets to be a Hartley and she’s stuck being a Wallis, bland, unknown, and caged. As the book progresses Thea and her mom work on their relationship, it blossoms and grows into a beautiful blend of mutual respect and love. It’s really heartwarming.
- The dialogue was perfect for the various age groups and flowed really well.
- Rory is sometimes hard to like. She’s a horribly difficult brat, who’s prone to outbursts and snarky comments but on other occasions she’s playful, kind to Thea and fights hard for equality for her sickly sister Allie.
- One of the best themes throughout this book was a very realistic look at the importance of image and choosing the ideal representation based on looks not necessarily talent. The scenes with Allie, her battles to dance through her illness and recovery are heartbreaking and her brutally honest statements are insanely powerful because she recognizes the system and accepts it.
- The interactions between the Hartley’s, the glimpses into the older Hartley’s past paint a compelling and dark picture of the entertainment industry and its effects on family life.
- Being Hartley is slow to start and continues at a mild pace. There’s not much drama or suspense until almost the end of the book.
- The love aspect felt like an afterthought and was a little bizarre. It suddenly happens with randomness and hardly any build up. I’m also not too keen on 15 and 18 year olds in relationships.
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Happy reading all,