Seeing Stars

Hammond (Hannah's Dream) explores the world of wannabe child stars in this taut if sometimes melodramatic novel. At the center is Ruth Rabinowitz, a naïve but determined stage mom who leaves her husband in Seattle to move to L.A. with their 13-year-old daughter, Bethany, who is soon plunged into a torrent of auditions, rejections, and humiliations. Three other teen actors represented by Bethany's manager play tragic stereotypes in the novel and are more vividly rendered than sweet if unremarkable Bethany: Laurel is determined to achieve stardom before her terminally ill mother dies; meanwhile, Allison, a beautiful and deeply troubled girl from Houston, and Quinn, a gifted actor from Seattle, have both been abandoned by cruel stepfathers and weak mothers. Careerwise, the virtually orphaned kids fare better, but this seems incidental in Hammond's lonely, exploitative Hollywood. Though Ruth's struggle to balance conflicting responsibilities is predictably resolved, the girls' stories remain compelling amid the gritty details of the child-acting biz.

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