My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

Received from NetGalley for review.

My Favourite Manson Girl is about teenager Anna, who steals five hundred dollars to fly to her older sister in L.A. in order to get away from her mum, who can’t take any responsibility for her actions, and her step-mum, who she seems to hate on principal. The relationship between them is fractured and Anna can’t help but feel wrong and out of place within the family. Whilst in L.A. Anna starts researching the Manson murders for her sister’s friend and finds herself understanding and sympathising with the girls involved in the cult.

I thought I was going to love this book but I completely lost interest around 50% – not because it was a bad book, on the contrary the writing is rather sumptuous and clever, but because I just didn’t care what happened with the characters. Aspects of the story are really interesting – a fifteen year old running away from home because her mum doesn’t seem to have any maternal feeling for her, the craziness of L.A., the darkness of the Manson murders and the parallels between the Manson girls and modern day American girls. But, and it is a large but, I found that I didn’t care how it all played out and what would happen to Anna in the end.

I’m not sure why I didn’t connect with the characters, maybe because Anna spends a lot of time moping around reading about the Manson murders and complaining that her sister doesn’t eat like a normal person. I found her quite bland, despite initially having a lot of sympathy for her because her mother seems like a manipulative, selfish bitch. A lot of what I read was just filled with her whining and as it’s not a massively long book I can’t see how that would have changed. The other characters were much the same for me – bland. I assume that things become darker as the story progresses but I would have liked more darkness from the beginning – if you’re writing a book that includes the Manson murders you have plenty of dark and weird to work with, it shouldn’t be boring or bland.

I’m sure there’s some kind of social commentary going on about Hollywood and the American dream, or fame and vanity, but at this point I’ll let someone else explore it.

Read: May 23rd-27th 2016

2/5 stars

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