Monday, July 22, 2013

Cherry, Everything Is Alright

Expected Publication:  September 10th, 2013
Cherry Money Baby
By: John M. Cusick
Candlewick Press
ISBN-13:  9780763655570

Hollywood glitz collides with workingclass aspirations in this satirical tale of an impulsive starlet and a sharp-witted small-town teen.

Cherry Kerrigan loves her simple life, her family’s tiny trailer, even working at Burrito Barn. Forget college — she’s marrying her sweetheart from next door. But here comes Ardelia Deen, a glamorous starlet who sweeps Cherry into a world of fast cars and penthouse parties. Now Cherry’s small-town life just seems so . . . small. When Ardelia drops a bomb of an offer — one involving a baby — Cherry knows her life will change forever, no matter what she decides. John M. Cusick focuses his signature wit on Hollywood royalty and the wide-eyed dreams of Small Town, U.S.A. in a novel about discovering who you are . . . and changing your mind.


     Cherry Kerrigan is just a small-town girl, working in a burrito place and living in a trailer park with her Dad and little Brother.  In love with the boy next door, Cherry is loving her life just the way it is.  She doesn't even really see the appeal in leaving for the great world outside the town lines.  When Lucas, her sweetheart, asks her to marry him life is just that much sweeter.  But when Cherry saves movie star Ardelia Deen (who is in town shooting her latest movie) by giving her the Heimlich, things starts to change.  All of the sudden Cherry is on T.V. and being watched by all of America, made out as stupid trailer trash who doesn't know anything at all.  Hanging out with Ardelia begins to make Cherry wonder what she really wants in life and if staying behind while her best friend goes to college is really good enough after all.  Agreeing to help Ardelia find a surrogate to carry a baby for her, Cherry's life is consumed by her new friends, causing the gap to grow between herself and her old life.  Can she find a place to belong or will she be stuck between Hollywood, high society and the trailer park?  
     Oh my goodness!  This book was not at all what I was expecting, but that's in the best way possible.  Cherry Kerrigan is smart, but she's a sarcastic bitch who doesn't try hard enough in school.  She doesn't want to go away to college and is proud of her life just the way it is.  I love Cherry so much.  Even when she's being a pain in the neck she's still really likeable, or at the very least really funny.  The fact that Cusick avoids caricaturizing her as stupid trailer trash really endears him to me as a writer.  The romantic relationship between her and Lucas is wonderful, with a true connection between them.  Also, the depiction of an interracial relationship (Lucas is black, Cherry is white) in a small, hick town was touched upon with an episode that takes place on the street when a cop asks Cherry if Lucas is bothering her.  Cherry of course, basically tells the cop to go f*** himself and calls him Barney Fife.  But it's not the main focus of their romance which is truly awesome.  The biggest focus is on the trust between them and how it  transforms from absolute to tenuous throughout the book.  But the love is still overflowing between them and I love the graffiti art of Lucas that connects them on an even deeper level.
     The family issues were so realistic that it was amazing to me when I was reading it.  Not just for Cherry, but for Ardelia too.  Ardelia's close friendship, practically sisterhood with her friend Spanner was antagonistic but loving.  The scene closer to the end of the book when Ardelia humiliates her in front of some wealthy, 'important' guests was hard to read if simply for the fact of how easy it is to take a friend's love for granted.  The relationship between Cherry and her Dad, a struggling auto-mechanic who wants more for his kids, was full of warmth, discipline and I love that he was a major presence in her life (even though he was constantly working and not always able to be there).  There was a huge contrast between that and the pronounced lack of a Mom in her life.  When the whole surrogate selection plot pops up, Ardelia and Cherry's insecurities and gaps in parental education become painful to witness.
     Life in the fast lane with partying, movie stars and drugs is something that starts to get a hold on Cherry at times.  But just when you think she's starting to lose herself, she does something that totally brings her back to herself.  As the book goes along, especially after Cherry gets high and almost cheats on Lucas and a tragedy befalls her family (pretty much financially ruining them), she has to make some pretty hard decisions about how to make things right.  I don't agree with other reviewers that the direction of the last portion of this book turned cliche.  Yes, if it were any other book I might say it did.  But with the amount of sheer emotion packed into every moment and confrontation, it was anything but cliched to me as a reader.  To me the ending was perfect and the friendship between Ardelia and Cherry throughout this book was a high point for me.  It was about the journey of figuring out who you are when the world proves to be scarier and bigger than you ever imagined.  Movie star or girl in a trailer park, life kicks you in the ass either way.  I highly recommend this book to fans of Where the Heart Is, who also like a book with some sharp (funny) edges to go along with the warm and fuzzy emotions.

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley and as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication is September 10th, 2013.*

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