November 28, 2011

Review: Unscripted by Natalie Aaron and Marla Schwartz

Source: we received an e-ARC of the book through NetGalley for review purposes.

Unscripted follows our heroine, Abby Edwards, as she tries to make a living in Hollywood while working as a producer in the world of reality TV. We see her trying to come to terms with the fact that her dream of being a screenwriter won’t come true, having a job that is hard and demanding but not as rewarding as she would like, and overall struggling to find her place, be successful and achieve happiness. In the process we meet Abby’s best friend Zöe, who has her own struggles, and a set of different characters that are part of Abby’s life, some of them help her, some of them become obstacles, but all of them impact her in some way. All of this is set against the background of Reality TV, a complex and interesting world that acts almost like another character.

You probably can tell by now but this isn’t a romance (mostly because I didn’t mention the hero), Abby has a romantic interest but the romance is almost an afterthought. Will, the romantic interest, is more of a secondary character than anything else, he’s not the hero, the book doesn’t have one, the story is all about Abby, and on a lesser scale, about Zöe.  If I had to label it I would say it’s more into the realm of women’s fiction and/or chick lit, it had all the components to be one: the main character is a woman struggling to find happiness, it’s told in first person, she gets in trouble a lot, some of those troubles are supposed to offer some comedic relief, and by the end of the book Abby achieves her happily ever after, or maybe not.

You see, there were a lot of reasons why this book didn’t work for me but I couldn’t see past through two of them. First of all, there’s no journey. The Abby that we meet when the book begins is the exact same person we say goodbye to at the end.  She goes through a lot during the book, she loses her job, finds a new one but the boss turns out to be a dreaded character from her past, her best friend moves out of their apartment leaving Abby unable to pay for rent, she gets explosive diarrhea during a job interview, she has to deal with the coworkers from Hell, her ex-boyfriend writes a movie based on her, etc. But that’s it, the book is about a series of unfortunate events but not about how Abby grows and learns from them, and believe me, this is a person who could use some maturing. So when the book ends and she finds a guy, gets a new job with him (because when you get your HEA is OK to mix business with pleasure, right?) and claims that she finally feels happy, I don’t believe it. Not only that, but because she was never a likeable character I’m not emotionally invested in her happiness, so I don’t really care about what happens to her.

This leads me to the second reason why I didn’t like the book: the characters. This story has a huge cast of unlikeable characters, I don’t mean that they were realistic and had both positive and negative personality traits just like everyone does, I mean that they didn’t have redeeming qualities. Abby was unhappy and hated her job, she does nothing but complain, she mentions that there are aspects of her job that she enjoys and she was responsible and hardworking, but she was also miserable. She claims that her dream is to be a screenwriter, but she never makes an attempt to pursue it, then she says that she wants to have her own production company and sell shows, but again, she doesn’t do anything about it. She was obnoxious and most of the time not a good person. I usually like heroines that are funny and a bit of a smartass but she kept rubbing me the wrong way. Here are some quotes to give you an idea of what I mean:
“Sure!” I’ll send the letter again, you vapid hooker. “I’ll follow up tomorrow to make sure that you received it.”
She mumbles a thanks and hangs up.
Granted, she is talking to one of those unlikeable characters I mentioned, but she is like this all the time:
“Call me when you’ve actually booked an actor. From the show.” 
Click. So pleasant. Like an old friend.
Now, I wish I could say that I’m exaggerating this woman’s behavior, but alas, I am not. I have no idea what she looks like, but if voice is any indication on appearance, then she’s a plastic, cadaverous hag who smokes at least a pack a day, and if you wrung her dry, the only thing that would flow out of her would be martinis and Botox.
And then (the emphasis is mine):
“I look down on Will’s list. The first name is Luke Canyon, action star extraordinaire, and client of, can you guess it? Sasha Leeds. Okay, desperate times, desperate measures. In my world, that translates to pawn your dirty work off on the person below you, in this case, Christine.”
This is what goes through her head when one of her bosses has an accident and she has to replace him:
"Why did Peter have to get in a car wreck now? Nice. Peter is laid up in the hospital with broken bones and all I can do is think about how much I don’t want to do this interview today. I am going to hell. But, let me just say in my defense, I had a shit night’s sleep. In fact, I think I might even be getting sick. Last night my throat was a little sore and it still feels a little scratchy today."
See? Is this supposed to be funny?

It was exhausting to be in her head throughout the book, which is why this next quote made me laugh out loud:
“What it must be like to be inside your head,” Will muses as he takes a bite of his sandwich.
Believe me, you don’t want to know…

Then there’s Zöe, who is immature, materialistic, self-centered and the biggest asshole in a book filled with assholes. I’ll let her speak for herself.

In this scene Zöe is telling Abby that she finally convinced her boyfriend to get married:

“Well, I told him I wasn’t getting any younger, and that I wanted to get married. I also told him if he wasn’t ready, then I wasn’t going to take that crap and wait around. I basically said I was going to start dating other guys.”
“And he obviously took it well,” I reply, biting back a judgmental tone.
“Not exactly. He kind of yelled at me for backing him into a corner and stormed out. But he called me about four hours later and said that he didn’t want me to date anyone else and so if I wanted to get engaged, we’d get engaged.”
How romantic. This certainly wasn’t the Lizzie/Darcy moment Zoë had been dreaming of since she read Pride and Prejudice in the eleventh grade. Without even thinking, I shake my head and frown. 
“What? You’re not happy for me?” she asks, her smile fading. 
“No, no. I’m totally happy for you.” Even though you’ve completely settled for a pseudo proposal from a guy who you have just blackmailed into marriage. “I was just shaking my head because I’m in shock. I mean it’s great news. I can’t believe it.”
Zoë looks relieved. “I told him I thought we should go ring shopping tomorrow and he sounded fine with it,” she says, her smile returning. “I think anything less than two and a half carats is too small, don’t you think?” she asks, glancing down at her petite ring finger.

I can actually appreciate that Abby is a good (?) friend and that she doesn’t judge Zöe and stays by her side even when she acts like a spoiled brat because that’s how life works, we all have friends like that and we love them just the way they are. But I don’t want to read a whole book about people I don’t like, just because you like your friends, doesn’t mean I have to like them as well.

There were characters I did like, one of them was Zöe’s boyfriend, and the other was Will, but I have a feeling that the only reason I liked him was because we never get to know him.

The whole Hollywood aspect of the book was detailed and it’s obvious that the authors know what they are talking about. It was very interesting to see the behind the scenes of a reality show and how hard it is to make it in the business. I have a newfound appreciation for all the people working in reality TV.

The book isn’t boring and I was curious to see how it was going to end. To me the most interesting part about it were all the details about TV shows and TV production. It’s well-written and fast-paced, but unfortunately the lack of character development and of characters that I could actually root for and like, ruined the story for me.

NOTE: the quotes were taken from the unfinished galley, they might appear different in the final version.

Review by Brie
Grade: 1.5
Sensuality: McDreamy


As a producer on a reality dating show, Abby Edwards knows that true love is a myth. Her career and her friends are all she needs. Right?
When her screenwriter ex makes a hit movie based on their relationship, Abby's faults are projected on screens across the country. Suddenly the fact that her job depends on orchestrating hot tub hook-ups doesn't seem so impressive.
Her friends rally to help. Zoë thinks she needs to meet a guy. Stephanie suggests an attitude adjustment. Nancy wants her to get in touch with her inner Goddess. Abby knows they mean well, but she prefers to focus on her work. Unfortunately, she's already embarrassed herself in front of her new boss, Will Harper, who she would find totally crush-worthy if he weren't so irritating.
Abby's about to be reminded that life doesn't follow a script—and good things happen when you least expect it...

Carina Press; November 28, 2011.


  1. You finally managed to finish it huh? :)

  2. Yep! All those priceless quotes kept me going...

  3. Sounds like a real drag Brie. I think I would have struggled with this also. It's hard to read and like a book whose characters have no redeeming qualities. If you can't at least empathize with the lead character, there really is no point. Great, honest review.

  4. Hi Jade!

    I wouldn’t have minded as much had she redeemed herself or shown some growth, I could understand the reading behind some of her unlikeable traits, but it was too much… And the whole book is set against a terrible background (Hollywood) which makes it worse because there were no good things, everything was bad, uncomfortable and a constant struggle. Life in Hollywood must be awful, I was appalled by some of the things described in the book and the authors are TV producers so they know what they are talking about.

  5. I can deal with a lot of things but I cannot deal with a whole cast of unlikeable characters. Thanks for your honesty.


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