WILD CHILD: Bad Girl, Small Town — Scandal or Homage?


Wild Child, ny Molly O'Keefeby Molly O’Keefe
Bantam/Random House 10/29/2013
Paperback 368 pages/E-Book 352 Pages
Disclosure: Provided by Publisher via NetGalley for review purposes.  No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions expressed herein are my own unless otherwise noted.

Monica Appleby is a woman with a reputation. Once she was America’s teenage “Wild Child,” with her own reality TV show. Now she’s a successful author coming home to Bishop, Arkansas, to pen the juicy follow-up to her tell-all autobiography. Problem is, the hottest man in town wants her gone. Mayor Jackson Davies is trying to convince a cookie giant to move its headquarters to his crumbling community, and Monica’s presence is just too . . . unwholesome for business. But the desire in his eyes sends a very different message: Stay, at least for a while.

Jackson needs this cookie deal to go through. His town is dying and this may be its last shot. Monica is a distraction proving too sweet, too inviting—and completely beyond his control. With every kiss he can taste her loneliness, her regrets, and her longing. Soon their uncontrollable attraction is causing all kinds of drama. But when two lost hearts take a surprise detour onto the bumpy road of unexpected love, it can only lead someplace wonderful. http://www.randomhouse.com/book/217084/wild-child-by-molly-okeefeMy Take!

I was really torn about this book and had a hard time getting into it.  But, it was not the writing, which is excellent, nuanced and often heart-wrenchingly beautiful; I loved the writing, the characters and the story.  My issue is with a scene in the text, and this scene colored my entire attitude towards the book.

As I began reading this story, centered in a small Arkansas town fallen on hard times, I was really interested.  I mean the cover makes it look really HOT, right?  It turns out to have the feel of literary fiction — even women’s fiction.

The story is about two characters: Monica, a “bad girl” who heads back to her mom’s hometown, of Bishop, Arkansas. It seems to be the place upon which her whole life has hinged. She’s there to research and write a book about her father’s killing which happened there, and to about it for which she has accepted an advance.  The other character, Jackson, is the town’s mayor who lives with his sister in the antebellum house his family has lived in for generations.  He left law school to return and raise his much  younger sister when their folks died.  In his mind he is just marking time until he can leave town and resume the life he put on hold.  Before he can though, he feels obligated to “save” the town through a contest to bring a company to a down on its luck town in the USA.

Seriously, WILD CHILD is a great story, with great characters who learn, change, and grow.  The pace was a bit slow sometimes; it got bogged down in the introduction of a secondary story that had a purpose, but which, nevertheless felt initially misplaced, and then extraneous, as it focused more on the support characters than on what it meant for the main characters.

My big issue came in the first few chapters:

I read a scene about Monica, a writer who doesn’t necessarily feel as legitimate as she should because of her troubled past that feels as if it hinges on an event that happened in this sown, checking into her hotel with a dog. The woman at the desk asks if she has a dog with her — it’s rather obvious that she does.  She insists she doesn’t. The desk-person reveals they allow pets.

Hmm, that seemed familiar, and after a few moments I remembered where I had seen it.

Rewind to a few years ago, 2011.  Charlize Theron’s stars as Mavis in the film, YOUNG ADULT (written by Diablo Cody, who also wrote Juno) about a bad girl writer who goes back to her home town and checks into a hotel with a dog she insists is not in the animal carrier.  Theron’s character is self-absorbed and sees herself as an a-list writer when in actuality she is a ghost writer being pressed in by her agent to get her chapters in. She is stuck though and thus the trip home.  There’s quite a bit written about it on the film’s site: http://www.youngadultmovie.com O’Keefe’s character, Monica, fares better and is a better person with more scruples that Cody’s character, Mavis.

I had an e-ARC, but, through the “look inside this book” on Amazon.com I was able to see the scene was part of the finished copy. Random House confirmed the scene stayed in the book. When I asked Alison Masciovecchio, a Publicity Manager at Ballantine Bantam Dell,an imprint of Random House about it she contacted the book’s editor and responded: “I heard back from Molly’s editor. That scene is still in the book and it is similar to a scene in the movie Young Adult but in a very homage sort of way. The plot of the two books is completely different.”

That is their position on this — and I seem to be the only person on the blogosphere mentioning it.  Is it an homage? Are the stories totally different? It did not feel like an homage to me. Why would a well-regarded author write an homage to a movie that was reviewed as average (6.4/10 according to IMDB.com) as YOUNG ADULT was?

What I think happens sometimes is that, like everyone else, writers are bombarded with clips from movies.  And, maybe even sees the movie (you’d sort of have to in order to pay homage to it). The idea becomes one of those things that feels like one’s own thoughts.   Someone should have caught this though.  It is close enough to the scene, and the stories of writers returning to a place to find themselves as adults and  writers also felt thematically similar.

I sincerely hope I am making too much of this. I sincerely hope it is an homage, a paean to the movie for whatever reason. I’ll probably never get an ARC from Random House again. I am hopeful this was left in the text inadvertently.

Maybe it was simply an homage written because O’Keefe was taken by the weird similarity between her character checking into a hotel with a dog and Cody’s character doing the same. But with recent issues with borrowing, I feel I would have failed if I didn’t at least question it.

Here’s an embed of the movie trailer that shows part of the scene from YOUNG ADULT:

The scene in the book is in the second chapter and can, at this time, be viewed on Amazon.com .

I would love to know what you think. I get stuck on details, and this one certainly stuck to me in how I felt about the entire book.


Relevant Links

molly-okeefe.com | Random House Book Page

Amazon.com | B&N.com


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