Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper

By Hilary Liftin

(Viking/Penguin Publishing Group, $27.95, 352 pages)

Who is this author?

Now enjoying rave reviews for her breakout novel, Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, author Hilary Liftin paid her writerly dues for years in the anonymous but crucial role of ghostwriter, helping the rich and famous (and incapable of writing) publish  their celebrity memoirs. Based in Los Angeles, of course, Liftin co-wrote 15 celebmems (a word I just made up) and 10 became bestsellers, including Miles to Go by Miley Cyrus;  High on Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips and Stori Telling by Tori Spelling, which won the 2009 Bravo A-List Award for Best Celebrity Autobiography, an award of which I must admit I was totally unaware, and I’ll bet you were, too. She also wrote the memoir Candy and Me and is co-author of Dear Exile, both published under her own name.

What is this book about?

Lifton tells the tale in the form of  – what else – a celebrity memoir, the sad and poignant story of Lizzie Pepper, an America’s Sweetheart kind of actress who marries a superstar movie actor following a whirlwind (and we later learn, orchestrated) romance chronicled by the tabloids and then finds that not every fairy tale has a fairy-tale ending. Evidently being rich, famous, beautiful and worshipped by fans is not enough to ensure happiness, not when your husband is enthralled by a mind-manipulating cult. If this plot somehow reminds you of the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes marital debacle, you are not alone in that perception.

Why you’ll like it:

Lifton has the celebmem form down pat, and she is very funny besides. Many reviewers called this engaging novel the beach read of 2015, but if you did not have it on your blanket, you can catch up with it now.  It will take you behind the scenes with a very astute guide to the crazyland that is Hollywood, and in creating Lizzie, Lifton has fashioned the perfect voice to tell this amusing but also cautionary tale.

What others are saying:

Kirkus Reviews says: “This irresistible debut novel from an accomplished celebrity-memoir ghostwriter reads like a behind-the-scenes look at the marriage of a certain former Hollywood it couple. TomKat, is that you? Lizzie Pepper, the disarmingly charming fictional narrator of this engaging faux memoir, is ready to reveal the truth about her tabloid-fodder relationship with her now-ex-husband, mega-movie star Rob Mars. (The author, Liftin, has collaborated on the memoirs of many real celebrities, including Miley Cyrus and Tori Spelling.) A wholesome, young, Midwest-raised actress, best known for playing a girl-next-door type on TV, Lizzie takes a meeting with Mars, who, in addition to being hugely famous and the teen crush of Lizzie’s best friend from home, is also deeply involved in a creepy cultlike religion with a lot of money and Hollywood pull. Lizzie thinks she’s auditioning for Rob’s next film, but she’s actually trying out for a bigger role—the actor’s girlfriend and, eventually, his wife and the mother of his children. Lizzie’s feelings for Rob are real, but how authentic his are for her is a continual topic of speculation in the press and ultimately an open question for Lizzie herself, despite (or perhaps partly because of) moments like the one in which Rob dramatically declares, in front of a phalanx of paparazzi, that Lizzie is “the love of my life”—an incident that goes viral, becoming a YouTube meme and providing talk show joke fodder. “They called him a manufactured brand, a robot attempting to play the role of a man in love,” Lizzie recalls. If these characters and this story don’t sound familiar to you, you miraculously missed out on the world’s collective fascination with the six-year marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes—not to mention its dramatic end. But no matter, Liftin’s compelling, highly readable novel—with its sympathetic narrator, suspenseful plot pivots, snappy pace, and dishy details about Hollywood’s inner workings—is likely to engage even readers who remain blissfully unaware of the tabloid characters who may or may not have inspired it. Dishy Hollywood fiction at its finest from an author who traffics in the truth behind tabloid headlines.”

Says Publishers Weekly: “In this novel, Liftin, a ghostwriter/cowriter on numerous celebrity memoirs, including those of Miley Cyrus and Tori Spelling, sheds light on our desire to know every juicy tidbit of celebrities’ private lives. Told as the memoir of Lizzie Pepper, an actress known for girl-next-door roles, the novel reveals her much-discussed relationship with the older and enigmatic Rob Mars (also an actor). From their meet-cute, Rob sweeps Lizzie off her feet with private-island dates, personal jets, and excessive amounts of sweet-talking. Through Rob and his devotion to One Cell—a cult-like meditation group—Lizzie believes she finds the power to take control of her career and her life. But life with a beloved actor reveals itself to be stifling, especially when the illusion of privacy disappears, and long-surviving friendships fall apart. Due to Lizzie’s wide-eyed nature, the reader may give her some leniency for her blindness to Rob and One Cell’s manipulations, which slows the narrative flow. The novel offers a surprisingly poignant look at making yourself the hero of your own story, in a very anti-Cinderella way. Readers will enjoy speculating about the real-life A-list celebrity inspirations, which adds to the already-juicy entertainment of Lizzie’s story.”

Library Journal gives the book a star and says:  “Nothing is as it seems in Hollywood and Lizzie Pepper is about to discover just how true that is. America’s favorite “girl next door” actress thinks she’s auditioning for just another role when in fact she’s trying out for the role of megastar Rob Mars’s next girlfriend. What follows is a romance and marriage that could have been ripped from today’s gossip magazines. Lizzie begins leading a life of “new normal”—fame and wealth—with Rob. Here nothing is private; her cell phone and emails are monitored, and every public appearance is orchestrated, right down to her wardrobe. Rob introduces Lizzie to One Cell, a mind/body/spirit philosophy and practice that he says has shaped him into the actor he is today. Lizzie gets wrapped up in One Cell in which secrets are kept—and shed—and her life takes a turn she never could have imagined. Celebrity ghostwriter Liftin’s debut faux memoir will have you wondering about the real-life inspirations behind the characters. With its fast pace and combination of mystery with juicy celeb details, it’s a surefire hit. VERDICT Fans of the showbiz tales of Sophie Kinsella, Lauren Weisberger, and Rachel Pine will love this book. The beach read of the summer, it will keep you up long after the sun has gone down.”

“In the course of entertaining us with her dishy book Liftin also manages to humanize these public personas, offering backstory and emotions, coloring in imagined details of their day-to-day lives, exploring not just the characters’ truths but all of our truths: Why do we choose whom we choose? What are we most afraid of? What are our secrets? Whom can we really trust? And how do we know when to leave? It all makes for an extremely satisfying read,” says the Los Angeles Daily News.

When is it available?

This faux memoir is on the shelves at the Downtown Hartford Public Library and its Mark Twain branch.

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