Thursday, 2 June 2016

Unrivalled by Alyson Noel had me starstruck

Unrivaled
Everyone wants to be someone.
Layla Harrison wants to leave her beach-bum days for digs behind a reporter’s desk. Aster Amirpour wants to scream at the next casting director who tells her “we need ethnic but not your kind of ethnic.” Tommy Phillips dreams of buying a twelve-string guitar and using it to shred his way back into his famous absentee dad’s life.
But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her bitch a long time ago.
She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.
That is, until Layla, Aster, and Tommy find themselves with a VIP invite to the glamorous and gritty world of Los Angeles’s nightlife and lured into a high-stakes competition where Madison Brooks is the target. Just as their hopes begin to gleam like stars through the California smog, Madison Brooks goes missing. . . . And all of their hopes are blacked out in the haze of their lies.
Unrivaled is #1 New York Times bestselling author Alyson Noël’s first book in a thrilling suspense trilogy about how our most desperate dreams can become our darkest nightmares.
Hollywood Boulevard is a place best viewed behind a pair of polarized lenses and lowered expectations.
Yet if you know where to look (and if you’re fortunate enough to boast a spot on the guest list), it’s an oasis of the city’s hottest nightclubs—a hedonistic haven for the young, fabulous, and rich.
But there’s no exiting through the gift shop if you buy a ticket to this show. Once you push past the velvet ropes and pulsing crowds, you might never escape.



When I saw Unrivalled was available to request to review, I didn't hesitate to request it for a fraction of a second. I've read one Alyson Noel book (Fated) back when I was 14 and I remember absolutely loving it, so there was that factor that made me all the more eager to read it as well as the fact that it centers around the glittering facade of perfection of the City of Angels. I love books that are featured in Los Angeles/Hollywood as, not only is it a place I've always wanted to visit, but because there's generally intrigue and high stakes on every page which is exactly what Unrivalled delivered. Not only was it a fascinating book but it was also pretty and each chapter was a song name. There were some Morrissey/The Smiths and Green Day song titles which was awesome (the music nerd in me just had to mention that!).

Unrivalled is about three teenagers, Tommy, Aster and Layla, who are all trying to make a name for themselves in Hollywood. When the three of them are chosen, as well as others, to compete in a competition to see who can promote Ira Redman's clubs, gaining access to the lives of the rich and famous and being provided with a chance to get their names out there, our three main characters will do anything in their power to the rise to the top. However, when America's Sweetheart, Madison Brooks (who may have a more sinister past than she lets on) disappears and as Tommy, Aster and Layla get caught up in a tangled web of lies and distrust, they have to decide if a shot at fame and fortune is worth risking their lives.

I honestly wasn't expecting to love Unrivalled as much as I did and I can't actually think of a good reason for my doubts, but it must be known, that I really enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced , it was intriguing, it was filled with trickery, blackmailing and the ambiguity of morals and the determining factor of what makes us essentially “good” or “evil”.

I think what I loved first and foremost about Unrivalled was the premise and the setting. I absolutely adore books that take place in Los Angeles as they are either a) light-hearted, summery reads where I can live out the picture-perfect dreams that the media have led me to believe exists or b) they are dark and twisted and reveal the nightmarish landscape that is shrouded beneath the make-believe, impossible dream of fame and fortune, beauty and perfection. Unrivalled was a mixture of both. I loved how Unrivalled was centered in Hollywood, how it showed the hungry desperation of those wanting to make a name for themselves, the lies that tasted sweet on the lips of the celebrated and the sordid depths those wanting their name in lights and those already with their names on the stars of the boulevard's Walk of Fame would sink to in order to reach the top of this bloodthirsty battle. I really liked how Unrivalled perfectly combined both those points. It didn't feel like an overly heavy book and it wasn't drowning in gore and an atmosphere of terror nor was it particularly frivolous with rainbows and unicorns, it was the perfect combination of mystery, intrigue and the vibe of a relaxing summer holiday.

I also grew quite fond of the characters despite their ravenous need for fame and fortune and their willingness to play dirty in order to achieve that. Indeed, they did questionable things but Tommy and Aster had good hearts. Tommy moved to LA from Oklahoma hoping to become a world-renowned musician but instead he's stuck working at a guitar shop and barely making enough to grant his needs. Aster is from a wealthy, conservative Persian family that expect her to hold up her good girl image, find a Persian husband and stay at home and have children – but all Aster dreams to be one of the best actresses in Hollywood. Layla is the daughter of an artist who is struggling to make enough money to keep them off the street and an aspiring journalist who runs the blog Beautiful Idols, where she dishes the dirt on celebrities she's managed to catch in the act. Will their schemes to cultivate their childhood dreams be the glamorous picture they've painted in their minds or will the greed and envy turn their vision of paradise into their nightmarish demise?

I liked Tommy and Aster, especially Tommy. He seemed the most genuine and least ruthless in this game to become Tinsel Town's number one. He was quite kind, caring and a peace-maker, rare traits for those in that environment. I also liked Aster, she could be quite stuck-up and unfriendly, but beneath that there was a girl who was vulnerable, scared and trying to rip herself from her family's suffocating desires for her life and I feel so sorry for her after reading that ending. I really liked her and Tommy and I hope in the sequels there'll be more of a positive relationship between them. Then there was Layla who made me want to knock my head against a wall and ask her to kindly leave the pages of the book and not return. She was catty, backstabbing, a cheater and would sink to incredibly low depths in order to secure her a place in the competition and I knew she was doing this in order to win and earn money to get her to journalism school but she played so dirty, she was unfriendly and she was just an unpleasant character that I don't think she could redeem herself in the sequels. 

 

I also found the plot and mystery aspect incredibly enthralling. I was gripped throughout the book, waiting to see what devious acts the characters would engage in next. I also love that Unrivalled is told from four alternating perspectives (it's in third person, so I didn't get easily confused): Tommy, Aster, Layla and Madison. Madison was an inscrutable character. We're fed hints throughout the book that she holds a dark past and I was hoping that in her chapters it would be revealed what secrets she keeps but it was a guessing game and I'm still left guessing. Going into this book I thought it was a standalone and my confusion grew as the amount of pages left grew thinner but the mystery still seemed impenetrable and I can't believe the cliffhanger this book ended on. IT'S CRUEL OKAY. I think the next book only comes out in December and I desperately need the second book because the questions are swarming around my head and if I knew it wasn't going to be a standalone I would have been slightly more prepared. If I was being persnickety I would say that I would've liked if the mystery happened slightly earlier on in the book but now that I know it's a trilogy, I can see why Alyson Noel did that but it was cruel.


I devoured Unrivalled and it had my fingers dancing across the pages. It exposed the evil sins that lurk in the dark, gritty nightlife of the City of Angels, it showed how everyone wore a mask and that deception was laced through each character's bloodstream, making me question the state of their morality . The sordid affairs and the bloodthirsty secrets of the famous made this book a riveting read. Unrivalled was deliciously intoxicating and left me with an insatiable hunger for more.

I give it: 4.5/5 CUPCAKES!

*Quotes taken from ARC - subject to change*
"People are people. Prone to do what they're prone to do. Geography had nothing to do with it."
"'...nothing in this town is ever quite what it seems.'"
"Wasn't it more likely that, given the right situation, the right circumstance, anyone was capable of just about anything?"  
*Occasional swearing 
*Brief mention of underage drinking
*A couple of steamy scenes but nothing too graphic

*Brief cheating scene


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