star islandThe Sleazy Side of Teen Super Stars

By: Carl Hiaasen

Leading a double life on the sleazy side of celebrity has not granted Ann DeLusia, undercover stunt-double for drugged out pop star Cherry Pye, the stunning introduction to acting she had hoped for – despite her impressive ability to vomit on command and fake-out hospital attendants in place of her very wasted employer. One of her few remaining joys is taking off her shades to reveal to her very non-Cherry Pye like eyes to desperate reporters hoping for a shot of an ODed popstar.

Enter Bang Abbot, greasy reporter who is prolific in failure and missed bathes. Determined to finally make his mark on the industry and catch the final moments of a plummeting star, he comes up with a desperate scheme for the ultimate photo opp. The only problem? His scheme involves kidnapping. And you guessed it, he grabs the wrong girl.

Stuck in a pseudo-secret hostage situation, Cherry Pye’s handlers, a self-absorbed mother, a bodyguard with an unusual add-on appendage, a robbing-the-cradle producer, and some sterile publicist twins must reclaim Ann before the world learns Cherry Pye’s true condition (and before Cherry herself learns that she has a double.)

Meanwhile, Ann’s chance adventure with a strange homeless man living in the mangrove swamps is coming back to roost. Skink, deranged ex-governor of Florida, wants to rescue the sweet young woman who once helped him hold up a bus of real estate investors.

Merging absurdism with a sense of adventure and a comical abandon toward the distinctly insane, Star Island is another classical Hiaasen experience. A sardonic version of Monty Python, the narrative combines a scarred body-guard with a weed-whacker replacing his missing hand, a self-absorbed and distinctly dim-witted singer, an entourage of usurious hangers on, the ever popular Skink in the role of savior, and biting representations of media at its very finest moments.

With his usual verve, Hiaasen’s language presents a vibrant world with distinctive characters. Some likable, some lovable, others the types that you just love to hate, the world comes alive in only that quirky way that Hiaasen could manage. Somehow, despite all the inherent weirdness, I believed completely; readers will gleefully wave goodbye to reality for a jaunt on this addictive crazy train. It’s out of control, events weaving together with a strange finesse that keeps the unbelievable completely acceptable and utterly inevitable.

The only fly in the proverbial ointment, and it pains me to say this, is the rapidity of a sudden conclusion. Ann builds a plan, we anticipate an epic revelation with some nuclear fallout for after effects, and what we get instead is so fast as to be somewhat incomprehensible. What does happen with Cherry Pye? Why such a happily-ever-after, this-door-is-so-closed-go-away conclusion for Ann. We stand, bleary eyed from lack of sleep, stomachs hurting from all the laughs, saying “wait, what, it’s over? Did I miss something.” You’ll still want to read it anyway because the journey is 90% of the fun but darn it Hiaasen, why quit at the finishing line?

The boyfriend and I, sandwiched into his car for another multi-hour road trip, listened to the audio CD version of this book as read by Stephen Hoye. This was my boyfriend’s first experience with Hiaasen and while the ending, as I’ve mentioned, left us both flat, he was hooked into requesting future Hiaasen audiobooks. Part of the charm was indeed the delivery. Hoye knows how to read and read into each flamboyant character, capturing the essence of dry wit and exceptional sarcasm. What’s better than a Hiaasen story? Having one read to you. That’s what.

Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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