by Jennifer Echols
To be published by MTV Books
on July 16, 2013
Source: e-ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss. Please see my FTC disclaimer on the right sidebar.
Connect with the author: website | Facebook | Twitter.
Summary from Goodreads: Bailey wasn’t always a wild child and the black sheep of her family. She used to play fiddle and tour the music circuit with her sister, Julie, who sang and played guitar. That ended when country music execs swooped in and signed Julie to a solo deal. Never mind that Julie and Bailey were a duet, or that Bailey was their songwriter. The music scouts wanted only Julie, and their parents were content to sit by and let her fulfill her dreams while Bailey’s were hushed away. Bailey has tried to numb the pain and disappointment over what could have been. And as Julie’s debut album is set to hit the charts, her parents get fed up with Bailey’s antics and ship her off to granddad’s house in Nashville. Playing fiddle in washed-up tribute groups at the mall, Bailey meets Sam, a handsome and oh-so-persuasive guitarist with his own band. He knows Bailey’s fiddle playing is just the thing his band needs to break into the industry. But this life has broken Bailey’s heart once before. She isn’t sure she’s ready to let Sam take her there again…Buzzwords: Nashville, country music, sisters, band drama.
My take: I love Jennifer Echols. Such a Rush was one of my favorite YA books of 2012 -- you can read my review here. I didn't think that Dirty Little Secret was quite as strong, but still found it a completely enjoyable read with a lot of aspects I absolutely loved.
First thing I loved: the amazing world building. Authors and reviewers talk a lot about world building in speculative fiction, but I think that world building is just as important in a contemporary book that takes place a setting that's more familiar. I've never been to Nashville. I don't usually listen to country music. I can't even read music. But I'm completely fascinated by stories about musicians trying to make their dreams come true. Dirty Little Secret made me feel completely immersed in the city of Nashville and its music scene.
Second thing I loved: band drama. In the book, after Bailey Mayfield is sent into hiding by her parents, she's cajoled by Sam into breaking her promise joining his band. What Sam doesn't mention to Bailey is that the band's drummer is Charlotte, his ex. And that Charlotte is still pretty pissed off. I really enjoyed all the ensuing crossed wires of love between Charlotte and Ace and Bailey and Sam.
Third thing I loved: Bailey and Sam. I know some readers have taken issue with Sam, but I loved Sam's character and all his imperfections. He's the son of a longtime alcoholic and is determined to build a career in music so he can be different from his father. Sam's a good looking guy who's somewhat bemused at all the attention he gets from women. He's a person with a traumatic event in his past that explains why he switches girlfriends faster than guitar picks. But for me, all the puzzle pieces of Sam's imperfect personality fit together perfectly. I loved Bailey with Sam. I think what won me over was that he really respected her talent.
There was one aspect of the book that struck a bit of a wrong note for me, and that was the whole situation surrounding Bailey and her family. According to the book's blurb, Bailey and her sister Julie toured extensively together. Then Julie was offered a record deal without Bailey. That part made sense -- I mean, these kind of things happen all the time. But all the stuff about Bailey suddenly having to be a huge secret, stay hidden, erase her social media accounts, use a fake name, dye her hair…. In the age of Facebook and YouTube, it all seemed a bit strange to expect that everyone in Nashville would suddenly forget about Bailey. Or that Bailey's parents could think it would be worse for America to find out that Bailey got ditched by a record company than for America to find out that Bailey's parents told her not to come and support her sister as she debuted at the Grand Old Opry.
Beyond the whole plausibility issue, I think that the other problem with Bailey's hiding out is that the reader never really gets to meet Julie or see the sisters' relationship until the very end of the book. I wish the book had spent more time forcing Bailey and Julie to work through a situation that had to be awkward and painful for both of them, work through all the jealousy and hurt and guilt and disappointment, rather than keeping the sisters apart until the very end and then having to rush our glimpse of their relationship into a chapter or two at the end. But, all in all, reading Dirty Little Secret really made me happy. I loved the performance scenes and loved pretending I was in Nashville and loved watching Bailey and Sam fall in love.
Random side note: When I first started Dirty Little Secret, I decided it might just be a YA version of Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore -- one of my favorite rom-coms. Have you seen it? Hugh's character is (I think) loosely based on Andrew Ridgeley from Wham! You know, that guy that was in a fairly successful musical duo with George Michael, who ditched him for a more successful solo career. Like Bailey, Hugh's character has to play dreary tribute concerts in malls and gets no respect. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it!