My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Unrivalled is the first in the Beautiful Idols series by Alyson Noel. It’s set in the L.A. club scene and is all about the quest for fame and fortune and the lengths people will go to. It’s an enjoyable and easy read but despite my excitement there wasn’t anything that really wowed me. The writing is as good as I expected but I felt like it was a little on the slow side and the characters, while well described, were difficult to connect with.
I have a feeling though that this is just an introduction to the world and characters. The potential is there for a great series and I will definitely be looking out for the next book.
Synopsis (from GoodReads)
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Alyson Noël comes the first book in the Beautiful Idols series. With mystery, suspense, and an insiders-only look at Los Angeles that echoes Gossip Girl’s racy and real New York, fans of Pretty Little Liars and readers who crave pulse-pounding romance will love Unrivalled.
EVERYONE wants to be someone.
Layla Harrison wants to be a reporter.
Aster Amirpour wants to be an actress.
Tommy Phillips wants to be a guitar hero.
But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her own a long time ago.
She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.
That is, until Layla, Aster, and Tommy find themselves with a VIP invite to the world of Los Angeles’s nightlife and are lured into a competition. The prize, or rather the target? Madison Brooks.
Just as their hopes begin to gleam like stars through the California smog, Madison Brooks goes missing. . . . And all of their hopes are blacked out in the haze of their lies.
I was very excited to see that Alyson Noel was bringing out a new series. I absolutely loved her Immortals series (even though I didn’t expect to) and had high hopes for Beautiful Idols. It is a completely different genre, contemporary rather than fantasy, but what I loved most about the Immortals were the relationships and the many, many feels so I was hoping that this would carry through to this new series.Unfortunately this proved not to be the case and while the story is a little addictive I found it missing some of the emotion.
Unrivalled is a little more grown up than Immortals. It’s set in the Los Angeles club scene where Layla, Aster and Tommy (three wannabes) enter a competition to become nightclub promoters for ruthless businessman Ira Redman. The prize is a job and a share of the takings but that’s not really what they’re after.
Layla is a blogger who wants to expose the dark side of the clubbing and celebrity scene but also to make enough money to go to journalism school in New York. Aster comes from a wealthy family so doesn’t need the prize money but she wants to be an actress so is hoping to meet someone who can get her the break she needs. Tommy is broke and could do with the prize money but really enters the competition to get closer to Ira who he has a connection to.
They all want to stay in the competition as long as possible but to avoid elimination they have to get as many cool and beautiful people to the clubs they are assigned to promote as they can. This includes a list of celebrities including young starlet Madison Brooks. Madison has achieved her dream but is hiding a secret about her past that could bring it all crashing down.
The story is told in alternating chapters from the point of view of each of the four characters (Layla, Aster, Tommy and Madison) which I thought worked very well. It takes a little while but you really get to know each of the characters, their motivations and their feelings. Unfortunately for me what I found were four characters that I’m not sure I particularly liked.
Aster was vain, arrogant, highly competitive and willing to do pretty much anything to win including flirting with someone else’s boyfriend. Layla tries to claim the moral high ground (she’s there to expose the dark side of celebrity culture) but when it comes down to it she lies, she cheats, she turns on her friends and uses her blog to start a vendetta against a certain celebrity. Madison was too secretive and sneaky. I don’t think you ever really get to see the real her and she seems to use everyone around her.
The one character who did have some redeeming features was Tommy. I still never completely warmed up to him but he’s the boy from the small town who moved to L.A. to make it big. He seems quite sweet and a little naive at times which does make him likeable but even some of his actions are questionable at times.
The majority of the story focuses on the competition and the lengths that Layla, Tommy and Aster will go to to win which does make for some fascinating reading and character development but there is also an element of mystery around it which really kicks in towards the end when Madison goes missing and the other three become suspects. For me this is where the story really became interesting but it felt a little too late and the build up was too long.
The writing throughout is pretty good and I think if you like stories with questionable characters, back stabbing, fashion and celebrity you will probably love it. For me however I need characters that I like and can relate to and that just didn’t happen. I read for the feels and they seemed to be missing for me. It claims to have pulse-pounding romance but I have to admit I didn’t find it.
Despite my reservations however, I do think this series has promise and I will no doubt read the next book (even if just to find out what happens next).
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy. It will be released on the 10th of May.