A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban - G - ****
Ten-year-old Zoe dreams of performing at Carnegie Hall one day. She thinks pianos are glamorous, sophisticated, and worldly. She'd love to have a grand piano and be taught how to play impressive, difficult pieces by a grandfatherly maestro. Instead, she gets a Perfectone D-60 organ and six months of free lessons from a woman named Mabelline Person. Slowly but surely, Zoe learns how to play the organ and surprises herself with how much she likes it. Read my full-length book review.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier - G - ****
This book is a must-have for anyone who works backstage or on stage, and should be immediately placed in the hands of middle school students, drama teachers, and comic book collectors alike. Follow Callie from the first meeting to closing night of her middle school's musical production!
Read my full-length book review.
Dramarama by E. Lockhart - PG - ****
When Sarah meets a boy named Demi at an audition for a musical summer program, the two hit it off right away. Demi dubs her Sayde, and the pair become as thick as thieves. When they both get into the program, neither can imagine the summer being anything less than perfect. Read my full-length book review.
The Sisters Club by Megan McDonald - G - ****
The Rule of Three by Megan McDonald - G - ****
Cloudy With a Chance of Boys by Megan McDonald - G - ****
The three Reel sisters, Joey (8), Stevie (10), and Alex (12 and three-quarters), are thick as thieves. These books are perfect for both my But I Don't Want to Be Famous! and But I DO Want to Be Famous! booklists. While Alex loves the spotlight, Stevie doesn't, so she is surprised to find herself onstage in the first book and competing with Alex for a part in a school production of the musical Once Upon a Mattress in the second book.
Read my full-length review of The Sisters Club books.
Want more books about sisters? Click here for a special booklist.
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson - PG - ****
Though not the main character, aspiring actor Spencer Martin is central to this story, as is a production of Hamlet. Skilled at pratfalls and comedy, Spencer is the protagonist's older brother. He has such a good heart. You'll want him to succeed, and you'll wish he was your older brother too. Read my full-length book review.
Sequel: Scarlett Fever
Circle the Soul Softly by Davida Wills Hurwin - PG-13 - ***
After Katie's mom gets remarried, her family moves to a new town and she starts attending a new school. After she gets involved in a school production, she starts to feel more comfortable in her new surroundings. But something's still not right. If this is a new start, a new stage of her life, if this is her now, her after, then what came before? After repressed memories surface in her dreams, Katie starts to remember what happened to her when she was younger. This is a poignant book on many levels, as Katie has revelations on stage and off about acting and about herself. Read an excerpt.
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen books by Dyan Sheldon - PG - ***
- Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (I like the book more than the film)
- My Perfect Life
- Confessions of a Hollywood Star
Sing it with me: Her name was Lola. She was a showgirl. Okay, so her name is really Mary Elizabeth Cep, but she'd much rather be called Lola! Such a name befits the superstar this aspiring actress is bound to be. Lola's a powerhouse, confident and dramatic, ready to take on the stage and the world. Her best friend, Ella, is much quieter, but she manages to speak up in the sequel, My Perfect Life. Then Lola chases a film crew around in the third book, Confessions of a Hollywood Star, in hopes of getting her big break. Now you may sing: Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets . . . Read more about the books.
Grace's Turn by Christy Carlson Romano - PG - ***
Grace di Giovanni and her best friend Emily decide to make the most of their junior year of high school. Grace, a hopeful singer and actress, would love to get a big part in the school musical. Last year, her nerves got the better of her at the audition, and she felt lucky to have made it into the chorus. Emily is in drama too, but she hopes to make it onto the newspaper staff as a photographer and rub elbows with the popular kids in the meantime. Grace's dreams are different from those of her older siblings, twins Tom and Sonia, who are seniors at opposite ends of the achievement scale. Her parents are somewhat supportive of Grace's efforts, but hesistant to let her pursue her performing on a professional level. Before she knows it, Grace has earned a fantastic role and started dating a star athlete - but things still aren't right. She can feel Emily drifting away, and she wishes her family and her boyfriend, Hunter, would show her that they truly believed in her. When Grace realizes that she must believe in herself first and foremost, she shines. This book encourages self-confidence and the pursuit of dreams.
In the Cards: Fame by Mariah Fredericks - G - ***
Eve wants to be famous. She wants to be seen and heard, not just by adoring fans, but by her parents, especially her father, whom she thinks doesn't support her dream to be an actress. She also really wants the lead role in her middle school production of Cabaret. When she doesn't get it, she learns a lesson or two in humility. This is a really good and realistic story, especially because Eve makes both good and bad choices throughout and has to deal with what she's done, for better or for worse. Like Mr. Courtney, the play's director, Fredericks pushes her protagonist and lets her yell, scream, cry, get mad, get embarrassed, and get her ego in check.
This is the second book in a trilogy. I included the first book, In the Cards: Love, and the third book, In the Cards: Life, on my But I Don't Want to Be Famous! booklist. I also put all three titles on my Sing Sing Sing booklist.
Read my full-length book review of In the Cards: Fame. Read my full-length review of In the Cards: Life.
Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell - PG-13 - ***
Gem sets out to make an underground movie and ends up seeing new sides of her friends, her family members, and herself. The book focuses on the personal side of the filmmaking process rather than the technical side. A very good book. Read my interview with the author.
Adios to My Old Life by Caridad Ferrer - PG-13 - ***
A fun combination of life and music, melody and melodrama. A teenage girl impresses judges with her singing voice and guitar playing, and becomes one of sixteen finalists on Oye Mi Canto, a competition could be called the Latin American Idol. Read my book review and interview with the author.
The Hollywood Daughters trilogy by Joan Lowery Nixon - PG - ***
I love that this trilogy follows one family through three generations. There are roughly twenty-five years between books. It focuses on one girl per book, showcasing a representative of each generation at nearly the same age. It begins with the story of Abby, a former child star, and she is present in the other two novels as well. In the first book, she is a teenager; the second, a mother; the third, a grandmother. Now for the plot of each book:
Book One: Star Baby - PG - ***
Star Baby, set in the year 1942, introduces readers to Abby Baynes. As a child, she was world-famous as Cookie, a young movie star. Now in her late teens, she yearns to do stand-up comedy instead, but she keeps being sent by her mother to auditions for roles she's outgrown.
Book Two: Overnight Sensation - PG - ***
Overnight Sensation, set in the late 1960s, focuses on Cassie, Abby's daughter. She wants to step out the spotlight (may I refer you to the title of this booklist?) surrounding her mother and become a photographer.
Book Three: Encore - PG - ***
Encore was contemporary at the time of its release in the 1990s. Erin has followed in her grandmother's footsteps and become an actress. She is the star of a television sitcom and riding high - until the show is cancelled.
The Hollywood Sisters series by Mary Wilcox - G - ***
- Backstage Pass
- On Location
- Caught on Tape
- Star Quality
- Truth or Dare
Sixteen-year-old Eva Ortiz dazzles viewers weekly on a hit television sitcom. Her younger sister, Jessica, does not have any acting aspirations, preferring to led an average life off-camera. When accidents start happening on the set and things start to go missing, Jess (who narrates all of the books) decides it's up to her to solve the mysteries. Though she often has pratfalls, she also has a very big heart, and she never really means to get into trouble. Meanwhile, it should be noted that Eva is quite down-to-earth. While she enjoys her newfound celebrity, she never lets it go to her head. The Hollywood Sisters books are quick reads and refreshingly clean. This series is suitable for young readers who want a little mystery, a little glamour, and a lot of fun.
True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet by Lola Douglas - PG-13 - ***
Morgan is a teenage star, an actress who loves spending money and living it up. After overdosing at the Viper Room and nearly dying, then spending time in rehab, she is sent to live with her mother's best friend in Indiana. She must attend a public high school for a year as Claudia Miller and let no one know who she really is, requiring a "makeunder" to disguise her famous face. This book was written as a journal, so it's easy to stop and start. Though often predictable, as any 'secret identity' books are to me, it was surprisingly decent. Morgan has issues - big ones, beyond her materialistic ways - that come out as the story progresses. This book was made into a Lifetime movie starring Jo-Jo as Morgan and directed by Tim Matheson, whose directoral work I enjoy just as much as his acting.
More Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet by Lola Douglas - PG-13 - ***
If you liked the first book, you'll like the sequel. You can't always say that, but it is definitely the case here. Morgan's story picks up right where it left off. Everyone knows who she is now, but just where does she belong? Morgan struggles with her identity, her sobriety, and her secrets. This series isn't sugar-coated, to say the least. Morgan is bold. She has more of a presence than many of her contemporaries (meaning other teen novel protagonists who tell their stories in diary format) and she is stronger than she knows. I hope there are more books in this series, because I think Morgan can only get stronger, wiser, maybe even get that redemption she's searching for, and make herself proud.
Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita - G/PG - ***
- Secrets of My Hollywood Life
- On Location
- Family Affairs
- Paparazzi Princess
- Broadway Lights
- There's No Place Like Home
Kaitlin Burke has been acting a long-running prime-time TV show since she was four years old. In the first book, she decides to go to a public high school for a few months. (Though this sounds similar to the aforementioned Hollywood Starlet, note that Kaitlin wants to go while Morgan does not, and that Kaitlin's a good girl while Morgan's a wild child.) As the series progresses, Kaitlin returns to the set of her TV show and deals with the ups and downs of her Hollywood life.
Read my interview with the author.
Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond - PG - ***
Jules Maroni has always worked in the circus. Jules, like her father, is a high-wire walker; her mother and her cousin Sam do dazzling work with the horses, and her grandmother used to fly on the trapeze. When her family joins the Cirque American, an old rivalry flares up between the Maronis and the Flying Garcias. Though she rarely falls off of the wire, Jules find herself falling for Remy, a Garcia boy - and she finds herself the target of threats and bad omens. While she and Remy try to figure out who is behind these unwelcome acts, they also have to hide their relationship from their families. Meanwhile, Jules' fame rises as the circus travels across the country. Give this book to folks who like their mysteries with a touch of magic, and ask yourself: Would you dare to walk the high wire?
Sprinkles and Secrets by Lisa Schroeder - G - ***
When Sophie gets the chance to audition for a big TV commercial, she can't believe it. Then she finds out it's for a big-name dessert company that's grabbing business away from her best friend's family's cupcake shop. Torn between pursuing her dream and staying loyal to her friend, Sophie has some tough decisions to make.
This book is the companion to Lisa Schroeder's previous novel for young readers, It's Raining Cupcakes, which revolved around Sophie's best friend, Isabel.
Ruby Parker Hits the Small Time by Ruby Coleman - PG - ***
Ruby has a lot in common with Kaitlin from the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series. Ruby has been on a soap opera called Kensington Heights ever since she was a baby. Now she's thirteen and dealing with all of the typical teenage traumas - crushes, homework, shakeups with friends - in addition to her fame and her work.
The 310 series by Beth Killian - PG-13
- Life as a Poser
- Everything She Wants
- Boy Trouble
These books is filled with gossip, secrets, and lies. Eva Cordes comes to L.A. to escape a scandal at her high school and to try her luck in the entertainment industry as an actress. She rooms with two girls who are already famous - and have plenty of their own problems. Eva's aunt looks out for her, her (in)famous party-loving mother fights with her, her (ex-)boyfriend and boys who are friends confuse her, and her father's identity is anybody's guess. Read my interview with the author.
Top 8 by Katie Finn - PG
Mads loves being on stage. Though this book mostly focuses on her attempts to discover who has been hacking her online profile, she's also the female lead in the school musical - a contemporary take on Hamlet. Read my full-length book review.
Fame Unlimited by Liane Bonin - PG-13
- Celebrity Skin
- Pretty on the Outside
- Idol Talk
Those who like the Hollywood Starlet books or the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series will like this series too. It follows the ups and downs of a teen actress - from the point of view of her best friend.
All About Vee by C. Leigh Purtill - PG
Veronica likes her cozy little hometown in Arizona, but she likes the spotlight even more. After losing her mother in a car accident at a young age, she and her father developed a comfortable routine, and he started dating a nice, quiet lady named May whom he worked with at the library. Meanwhile, Veronica bonded with three girls whose names also began with the letter V. Veronica appeared in countless school and community productions and has played everything from Alice in Wonderland to Juliet. Now eighteen years old, she has high school behind her and a shining future in front of her. But the changes that come next aren't very welcome: the local theatre's next show has no female roles, her boss has to let his workers go, and her father and his girlfriend are finally going to get married. Prompted by the discovery of her late mother's letters to her father in which she too reached for the stars, Veronica decides to move to L.A. Her upbringing hasn't exactly prepared her for the big city, so she's naive, but she's sweet and confident without being conceited. She's also quite a bit bigger than most of the other girls at the auditions, but she never feels the need to do anything unhealthy or drastic to compete with them or look like them. That's nice to see.
Thanks to C. Leigh for the sweet blog.
Talent by Zoey Dean - PG
Mackenzie may only be an eighth-grader, but she's lived in L.A. for her entire life, and she knows the entertainment scene like the back of her perfectly moisturized hand. With no special abilities or hobbies of her own other than being the leader of her group of popular friends, Mac thinks perhaps her talent is finding that in other people, allowing her to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the famous talent agent. When Emily, her mother, and her best friend visit Los Angeles to go sight-seeing (and hopefully celebrity-spotting), they have no idea that Emily might be the next big thing. Mackenzie does, though. After Emily acts her way into a Hollywood party, her path crosses with Mac's, and the rest is history. The week that follows features shopping sprees, auditions, and lies that could strengthen or threaten friendships and careers. Every character has her own storyline (Mac's three best friends also have famous parents and are trying to make their own strides in or out of the industry; Emily's best friend was the one with real acting aspirations) and the plots overlap evenly. This series is far tamer, content-wise, than Dean's series The A-List, and thus is for a younger but similar audience.
Theodora Twist by Melissa Senate - PG-13
When they were early teens, Theodora and Emily were friends, albeit briefly. Theodora moved away and became a movie star. She is brought back to her hometown to do a reality TV show, trying to convince American that she is squeaky-clean instead of scandalous and wild. She has to live in her old house, where Emily's family now resides, and smile for the camera - no matter how unhappy she is. Note the content rating on this book. This book has direct details about as well as allusions to some risque escapades, such as what made Theodora grow up so quickly, and why she is dating famous twin boys.
Confessions of a Backup Dancer by Tucker Shaw - PG-13
Though I loved Shaw's novel Flavor of the Week, Confessions of a Backup Dancer left me disappointed. The book alternated between dropping the names of real singers and fake ones. The main fake singer who the protagonist was dancing for felt like a thinly veiled Britney Spears. I much preferred Flavor of the Week.
But I Don't Want to Be Famous!
Sing Sing Sing
I Am a Dancer
Filmmakers in Fiction