The adage “truth is stranger than fiction” fits celebrity gossip to a T. But if you’ve ever wanted to know the real story behind the sparkly photos and salacious headlines that fill the tabloids, the closest you’ll probably get is through one of these six juicy novels. The layered depictions are so plausible you’ll feel as though you’re living alongside the rich and famous. Baby bumps, celebrity weddings, royal romances, pop star ascendancies, and political marriages—they’re all here. (Because who said beach-worthy reads are only good for the summer?)
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, by Teddy Wayne
Bieber-esque 11-year-old pop star Jonny Valentine was discovered in an online busking video and molded into a singing, dancing sensation. He likes the video game Zenon and Michael Jackson music. In some ways, he’s an everyboy, except that his clothing, hair, signature moves, and puppy love celeb romances have all been tested and preapproved, packaged to appeal to the masses. Raised by a single mom, and curious about his long-lost dad, he’s heartbreakingly eager to reunite with a former friend who’ll never be able to see past Jonny’s newfound fame. Regardless of your place on the Belieber to non-Belieber spectrum, Jonny Valentine delivers a genuine, poignant, and effortlessly real adolescent voice.
Gonzo Girl, by Cheryl Della Pietra
In the summer of 1992, Pietra worked as an assistant to gonzo journalist/cult novelist Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). In this lightly fictionalized account, which takes place over a longer time span, readers are immersed in a juicy, sordid, bizarre, and drug-fueled roman à clef.Gonzo Girl‘s narrator, Alley Russo, is a recent Ivy League grad reluctant to set aside her writing dreams to help out at her family’s business, so she leaps at the chance to work for Walker Reade at his ranch in Colorado, where he’s supposed to be finishing a long-delayed manuscript. Alley’s job is to keep him focused on typing at least a page per night to fax to his publisher, but he insists she mix him drinks and keep pace with his round-the-clock ingestion of LSD and cocaine. A coming-of-age tale viewed through a haze of debauchery.
The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Though endearingly referred to in some circles as “Kate Middleton fanfic,” The Royal We is so much more than that. First off, it’s equally concerned with Prince William—er, Nicholas, and his mischievous, rakish younger brother, as well the brothers’ tight-knit circle of friends. Cocks and Morgan (creators of the popular Go Fug Yourself celebrity fashion blog) expertly combine sparkling dialogue, swoony romance, and upper-crust snobbery with achingly believable sibling rivalries and perfect send-ups of tabloid journalism and cheesy TV. After sporty American college student Rebecca “Bex” Porter falls for Britain’s future monarch while attending Oxford (where they bond over a so-bad-it’s-good soap opera), it’s anything but smooth sailing for the would-be lovebirds. For readers, however, it’s pure pleasure.
Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, by Hilary Liftin
Liftin has worked as a bestselling celebrity ghostwriter, so she’s the perfect person give voice to Lizzie Pepper, an up-and-coming girl-next-door television beauty who marries an older, megastar movie actor only to discover his cultlike religion may have dictated their entire relationship. Katie Holmes—I mean, Lizzie Pepper—would like to set the record straight once and for all about her whirlwind marriage to Rob Mars, and the children it produced. A fast and fascinating read. (P.S. For more [alleged] TomKat antics, see The Actress, by Amy Sohn.)
The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger
Aspiring writer Andrea Sachs lands a “dream job” at fashion magazine Runway, assisting the editrix in chief, Miranda Priestly. Only, it’s not Andy’s idea of dream job, not one bit; she longs to write “serious” articles for The New Yorker, not spend every waking moment catering to the oddball demands of her intense boss. Everyone knows Miranda Priestly is a stand-in for Vogue’s Anna Wintour, famously portrayed by Meryl Streep in the film version of the book. But the original work presents a tale that’s in some ways more accessible: that of a post-college, entry-level job that begins as a variation on a nightmare.
American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Alice Blackwell, a kind, thoughtful young librarian from Wisconsin, was brought up in a Democratic household, yet marries into one of the most powerful Republican families in the country. Once her husband becomes president of the United States, Alice must confront her public support of his policies with her own private misgivings. Fame, notoriety, and isolation also take their toll on the quiet yet complex heroine. As a version of former First Lady Laura Bush, Alice is depicted with measured grace.