Alison Umminger is an American professor in University of West Georgia and American Girls is her debut novel and it came out this year in June.
American Girls is a story about a teenage girl Anna, who steals money for a plane ticket and runs away from home. She ends up working in LA for her sisters ex-boyfriend who is planning to make a film about Charles Manson and the Manson Family. Soon she starts to see similarities between the Manson girls and herself and starts to understand the mistakes she had made.
When I was coming in this book, I had zero knowledge what it is about. I just had seen a couple of good reviews and decided that I want to give it a try. When reading, American Girls felt like a mix of Fangirl, because of the coming of age and the Manson effect and Geek Girl, because of the teenage problems and fame (the ‘girl’ theme is strong in this one).
As I didn’t know what the book is about, when I read the first chapter Charles Manson was mentioned and I looked him up, because I thought that he is never going to be mentioned again. I think the only thing I knew about him was the story about Marilyn Manson choosing his stage name. So I did a wiki run through and got a basic understanding of what he was and what he did, which was good, because not much ‘basics’ were explained in the book.
The novel was very easy to read, but there’s a huge ‘but’ to the story – I actually was interested in the story about Manson Girls more than the story that the author wrote about Anna. I didn’t care much for the protagonist, although I could relate to her and see her troubles as realistic, and the reason for that was just because there was another story – about Manson – that overshadowed the original struggles of Anna. And it is kind of incredibly rude to say that and I feel bad for it, but the author used a story in her book that was more interesting then her own story.
Although I could relate to Anna, I didn’t particularly like her or her friend, or sister. I guess I liked Jeremy’s character and felt a little bit bad that the ending only hinted about his future and didn’t explain what happened to him. Obviously I was the most fascinated by the facts the book mentioned about how Manson Family operated and what inexplicable things they did.
So why did I compare it to Fangirl (review) and Geek Girl (review)? Well Fangirl seems similar, because both girls are introverted and silent type and they both have an obsession – Harry Potter (Simon Snow) and Manson Girls. The parts where she explained what she learned about Manson Girls mirrored her own life, and it kind of fit together with the small fanfiction parts in the Fangirl that showed the development of the characters. The coming of age struggles seemed similar too, but I connected with Anna a lot more.
Geek Girl had all the shine, which resembles Hollywood a lot. We were shown a lot of the Hollywood life – both good and bad things from a teenager perspective, who wanted to run away from her current life, it definitely was similar to Henriette’s struggles and life.
In conclusion I think that I liked this book better than those two, but at the same time it is questionable, how much it is the author’s story that makes it better for me and how much is her decision to partially base her book on actual historical events.
I appreciated the quality of the writing and admired it, because sometimes young adult books lose that in order to be younger reader friendly (or just have bad editors or writing), but obviously the author is an English professor for a reason! I love that, because in the modern days there are so many bad quality books that are not edited properly and I believe that this author is quite something and will definitely check her out, if she releases other books.
This book received three stars from me on my goodreads page and is kind of scary, but suitable for teenagers as a coming of age tale. As I said, I will definitely try to remember to check out the author again after some time to see, if she has something new.
Let me know in the comments below what you thought of this book. I am very interested to find out more about Manson and the whole murdering bit, so, if you have any reading/film suggestions, please write them down in the comment box.