Friday, August 28, 2020

The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes

The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R Sloan
HarperCollins: 9/1/20
review copy; 448 pages

The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R Sloan is a so-so story about the rise and fall of a pop girl group and the suicide of one of the members.

In 1999, Cassidy Holmes came in second place on a singing competition show before being added as the fourth member of the pop girl group Gloss. Cassidy becomes "Sassy Gloss," joining founding members Rose (Rosy), Merry (Cherry), and Yumi (Tasty). The group rose rapidly in fame for their music and infamy for the drama following them, gaining fans until the group’s sudden implosion in 2002. In the present time Rose, Merry, and Yumi are doing a radio interview when they learn of Cassidy's death and are all shocked. They had lost close contact with her after the split, but after learning her death was a suicide they are now wondering if there was anything they could have done to help her.

The narrative jumps back and forth in time and follows the point-of-view of all four members of the Gloss. The remaining members of the group examine their relationship with Cassidy and the insanity of their years of fame as well as the secrets the girls shared with each other. The dark side of celebrity is clearly portrayed, both the excesses and the people who used them. The novel explores Cassidy's depression, suicide and gives notice to readers that it includes several other triggers including sexual assault, body shaming, abuse, and body dysmorphia. (It's been pointed out the similarity with the Spice Girls.)

While I wanted to like this debut novel, it was a struggle. The characters are underdeveloped and not well defined as individuals so it is difficult to connect with them or at the beginning to even tell their different points-of-view apart  (except for Rose). There are also a lot of missing years and things that should have been more fully explored. Adding to the struggle is the glacially slow pace at the start, which, when combined with the sort of easy-to-read YA vibe the whole novel emits throughout, made it a struggle for me to continue reading. While it does have a message, don't go into it expecting the same quality and depth as Daisy Jones & the Six. Clearly I wasn't the target audience for this book.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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