Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan write the celebrity-skewering website Go Fug Yourself, which regularly makes me snort aloud, especially when they transcribe imaginary conversations with Karl Lagerfeld (to Claudia Schiffer, while holding an oblong statuette: “You look like a frail wedding cake sneezed on by an eagle, and this dildo bores me. TANGO.”). So when I heard they had written a young adult novel (Spoiled, Poppy, $18), even though I’m almost two decades beyond the target age range, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Humor isn’t hard to find in novels, but true biting wit is, and I trusted Cocks and Morgan to deliver.
Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I’m simply too old. But Spoiled fell a bit flat, the equivalent, in the glitzy Hollywood world it portrays, of a week-old blowout—perfectly presentable and still shiny in places, but weighed down with too much product. The trademark motor-mouth snark that made “the Fug Girls” famous seems to act as a Band-Aid, distracting from the fact that the rest of the novel is a flimsy collection of 90210 and Mean Girls clichés.
Spoiled centers on two sisters on opposite sides of the social spectrum who are brought together by tragicomedy. When Molly Dix, a normal, corn-fed high schooler from Indiana, loses her mother to cancer, she discovers that she is the love child of A-list movie star Brick Berlin. Matters are complicated by the fact that Brick already has a daughter, Brooke, a long-legged blond Queen Bee whose interests include shopping, plotting and not much else. So when Molly arrives in L.A. just in time to inadvertently steal the spotlight at Brooke’s Sweet 16 party, her new sister is none too pleased. With the help of a tabloid magazine, Brooke and Molly engage in a very public bout of sibling rivalry, until they finally realize that maybe sisterhood is greater than the sum of its parts.
There is nothing wrong with the storytelling—the characters, if one-dimensional, are vibrant, the denouement has carefully plotted build-up—but there’s nothing particularly unique about it, either. Brooke feels threatened by Molly and leaps immediately to sabotage. Molly is torn between her hometown boyfriend and a new classmate. It feels like a modern take on Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High.
Of course, Cocks and Morgan have peppered their prose with plenty of hot-off-the-Us Weekly presses pop culture name-drops that places Spoiled squarely in 2011 (“That family needs to buy another consonant,” sighs Brooke of the Kardashians; a calming voice in her head “sounded eerily like Tim Gunn”), in addition to nods to earlier phenomenons that may fly over true teens’ heads (a supporting character’s last name is Westerberg, the name of the high school in Heathers). That tongue-in-cheek tone goes a long way toward making Spoiled a fun, frothy read, but it doesn’t go quite far enough. Stripped of its rapid-fire references and isn’t-Hollywood-silly jokes (one of Brick’s recent blockbusters is titled Tequila Mockingbird), Spoiled is actually fairly bland.
On Go Fug Yourself, Cocks and Morgan are fond of reminding young starlets that leggings do not count as pants. Sadly, short-form Internet humor doesn’t count as a novel, either.