This week marks the release of my romantic comedy Fame Adjacent, about the only cast member of a 1990s song-and-dance show who didn’t become famous. I’ve always enjoyed books about celebrities, so I’ve pulled together a list of must-reads in which a main character is either immersed in showbiz or otherwise famous. These new, recent, and upcoming releases are set in the worlds of pop music, sports, ’70s rock and roll, Broadway, and late-night TV. Each behind-the-scenes tale provides a different perspective on what it means to be in the public eye, with juicy and addictive results.
Fame Adjacent, by Sarah Skilton
Holly Danner has a complicated relationship with fame. Back in the ’90s, when she was eleven, she was cast on PBS children’s show Diego and the Lion’s Den. All the other kids on it went on to become famous—except for her. Twenty-five years later, Holly is at a crossroads in her life, and decides to crash a televised Lion’s Den reunion she wasn’t invited to. For her plan to come to fruition, she’ll need to leave internet rehab and cross the country with the infuriatingly level-headed and handsome Thom Parker, a fellow patient who doesn’t think she should confront her famous ex-friends. I had the best time writing this road-trip rom-com, which was inspired by my love of 1990s TV, including the All-New Mickey Mouse Club; Kids, Incorporated; Saved by the Bell; and Swans Crossing. If you’ve ever found yourself flipping through Star Magazine at the grocery store and wondering how much of it is real, this book is for you!
Meet Cute, by Helena Hunting
How perfect is that cover? The book inside is equally enthralling. Back in law school, the normally cool and collected Kailyn Flowers was shocked to bump into former actor Daxton Hughes—aka, her teenage crush from the TV series It’s My Life—and fangirled all over him. When the dust and embarrassment settled, the two became classroom buddies, until Daxton ruined everything (or so Kailyn thinks). Now it’s several years later, and Kailyn finds herself helping Daxton’s family during a crisis, and all their old feelings return to the surface. But just because they once had a meet cute of epic proportions doesn’t mean a real romance could ever follow, does it? This heartfelt, beautiful story about the ways we lean on other people after tragedy made me swoon, laugh, and cry.
Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
An unnamed narrator living in North London and her best friend, Tracey, both biracial, navigate childhood dreams of becoming dancers. Only Tracey has the talent to succeed, but her star burns out quickly. Meanwhile, our narrator works as an assistant for a wealthy white pop star from Australia who’s obsessed with all things West African (from “saving” a village to adopting a child). Though her pivotal friendship with Tracey falls apart when the women are in their 20s, its effects never truly leave either of them, for good or ill. “I wanted to believe Tracey and I were sisters and kindred spirits, alone in the world and in special need of each other,” the narrator says. A worthy successor to Smith’s previous novels, this is a brilliant narrative on identity, culture, race, and class.
Limelight, by Amy Poeppel
Mom of three Allison Brinkley leaves Texas behind for New York City when her husband’s job uproots the family, but her elation is short-lived as she adjusts to their comparatively tiny apartment, fast-paced lifestyle, and other culture shocks. Fitting in with the other private school moms and finding work isn’t easy for Allison either, until a fender bender lands her smack in the middle of pop star Carter Reid’s messy-as-hell life. The belligerent, foul-mouthed, scandal-prone teenager living in an obscenely decadent penthouse (which he trashes nightly) could use a trustworthy personal assistant (not to mention a mother figure), especially because he’s about to star in a Broadway musical and can’t remember a single one of his lines. Whipping him into shape before opening night will take every ounce of tough love Allison possesses, and the results are hysterical and heartwarming. Look for a cameo by Kevin Kline, Carter’s costar! For more pop star and Justin Bieber–inspired shenanigans, see The Love Song of Johnny Valentine, by Teddy Wayne; Public Relations, by Katie Heanie and Arianna Rebolini; and Out of Sync: A Memoir, by Lance Bass.
Stay Up with Hugo Best, by Erin Somers
Ever wondered what it would be like to work in the writers’ room of a late-night TV show? June Bloom is an almost-thirty-year-old writers’ assistant and aspiring standup comic, and Hugo Best, the sixty-something, mischievous crank of a host, is her newly retired boss (if you had visions of David Letterman just now, you may be on to something). When Hugo invites June to his Connecticut mansion for a long holiday weekend, June must navigate a series of professional and personal landmines, while acknowledging that the crush she has harbored on Hugo since childhood doesn’t necessarily translate to real life. This looks to be a sharp, wickedly incisive debut.
Daisy Jones & the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Fresh off the success of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Reid returns with a 1970s-set story reminiscent of the rise and breakup of Fleetwood Mac. Via interview transcripts, readers learn how the brilliant, pill-popping, fiery Daisy Jones joined forces with up-and-coming band The Six to form an iconic, larger-than-life group. The Six’s leader, Billy Dunne, isn’t prepared for Daisy to challenge his authority (or sobriety), and her actions may have inspired his other bandmates to rebel, too. There’s enough drama, sex, drugs, and betrayals in this rock documentary to power a small country, all centered on the book’s main question: What tore the band apart at the height of its success? I devoured this in two days and can’t wait to read it again.
Somewhere Only We Know, by Maurene Goo (May 11)
This YA contemporary set in the world of K-pop music comes out next month, and you’ll want to put it on your pre-order list ASAP! After the hilarious and endearing I Believe in a Thing Called Love, in which a lovelorn girl employs the plots of K-dramas (Korean soap operas) to further her burgeoning relationship, Goo became one of my go-to authors whenever I need a rom-com fix. Somewhere is set in Hong Kong and follows the dual-perspective, whirlwind romance between two Korean American teens: wildly successful pop singer Lucky, and Jack, a tabloid intern and aspiring photographer who can’t quite figure out where he knows Lucky from. Partly inspired by Roman Holiday, this looks like a fast-paced and fun weekend read. While you’re waiting for its release, why not check out the author’s previous novels, including The Way You Make Me Feel?
The Perfect Date, by Evelyn Lozado and Holly Lorincz (June 11)
This modern romance between a single mom and a Yankees baseball player won’t be out until June but I’m already counting the days. When Angel Gomez has two run-ins with Caleb “The Duke” Lewis, she has no idea he’s a famous athlete known for his tabloid appearances; she’s more focused on securing her nursing degree to make life easier for her seven-year-old son. Caleb needs Angel’s help keeping his recent injury a secret so it doesn’t tank his pitching career, and if that includes pretending they’re dating, he’s all for it—especially if it’ll finesse his image in the gossip columns. This looks ideal for readers who love dramatic twists within a rom-com setup.