REVIEW: The Paper Wasp, Lauren Acampora

Friday, 6 September 2019

Abby Graven is a dreamer. She dreams her way through her small, lonely life - hiding back at her parents, working at the grocery store. At night, she collects tabloid clippings that taunt her with Elise - her best friend, now Hollywood's hot new starlet. When a school reunion throws Elise in her path, Abby seizes her chance. With feverish certainty, she boards a one-way flight to LA to become Elise's assistant and enters her gauzy realm of film sets and glamorous actors. But behind Elise's glossy magazine veneer, she is drowning in Hollywood's vicious social cycle. Ever the devoted friend, Abby conceals her own burning desire for greatness. For she is smarter than Elise. More talented. A true artist. And as she edges closer to her own ambitions, Abby can see only one way to make her dream come true.

I do not know if I am becoming a stuck record but, when it comes to my interest-level in certain plot devices and/or settings, fame, celebrity and the tumultuous nature of life in the spotlight, is always going to be a selling-point for me.
A big fat tick on the hell-yeah-I-need-to-read-that list.
And yet, in as many months, I have read two books on that very topic that have just not lived up to the idea that I had cooked up in my head. Hell, it is almost as though I have finally met my celebrity crush in real life and found them to be an absolute arsehole (it is alright Joshua Jackson, I still believe in you).
The fact is that, whilst The Paper Wasp initially seems to have a bit of a shine, thanks primarily to Lauren Acampora’s rather artful prose, its true reality is eventually revealed to be more than a little dull. This, of course, is due to the characterisation of the relationship between the novel’s protagonist and her small-town-girl-turned-movie-star best friend. Or ex-best friend. Or we-talked-when-we-were-eight person.
What would you call them? Because, as someone who does not talk to any of the friends I made before the age of eleven (and that is only one, the rest I made after the age of eighteen), I honestly do not have the slightest idea.
This initial hazy foundation of a relationship does little to cement the realism of their feelings for one another; they do not account for the protagonist’s feverish obsession, or how her ‘friend’ lets her get away with behaviour that is more than a little suspect. And, this could be overlooked - people are distracted, after-all, and drugs and a personality disorder could be used to explain away some of the finer points.
But then this is impounded by the fact that the object of the obsession switches. The tool that once fostered a connection with the primary subject, somehow becomes the object itself. In doing this, Lauren Acampora seems to have forgotten the singularity of obsession; the personality of the erotomanic stalker and their tendency to isolate their obsession from any competitors to their affections. The I-will-have-you-or-no-one-else-will type.
It may seem like a small point, but the reality is that The Paper Wasp immediately loses all of its sense of realism when the switch occurs; whereby turning the novel from one about the horrifying, singular nature of obsession into one that would more than easily be categorised as ‘crazy, predatory lesbians on the prowl’ once again.
And, who needs more books like that?

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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