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*Likely Story (Book 1)* by David Van Etten- young adult book review  
Likely Story (Book 1)
by David Van Etten
Ages 14+ 240 pages Knopf May 2008 Hardcover    

Do you feel you have too much drama in your life? Is your everyday existence like a soap opera? Then you may feel a little like eleventh-grader Mallory, the teenage daughter of a single mother who is an oft-nominated but never-winning daytime soap star.

Mallory has grown up on the set of her mom’s soap opera, Good as Gold, but she hates the unrealistic writing and situations that are often depicted in it and other soaps. She doesn’t get along well with her mother, either, and hates the show’s awful plotlines and overacting. She thinks soaps should be about real-life sorts of things, like the everyday lives of teens, and she writes about this idea on her blog.

Her mother’s agent, Donald, happens to read her blog entry and offers to show the “bible,” treatment of her proposed soap around (the bible being what the soap’s stories are based on - it lists all of the characters, their interrelationships, etc.). Of course, she doesn’t have any such bible but doesn’t admit this to him. Instead, she tells him she can have it ready for him to check out at a meeting he schedules for the next morning. Mallory stays up all night long writing it and includes a role she thinks would be perfect for her best friend, Amelia – a character named Sarah - and calls the fictional city the soap will be set in Destination Pass.

The entertaining story of how Mallory gets a job writing a daytime soap opera is the basis for Likely Story, the first book in a new YA series co-written by a trio of talented authors who use the collective pseudonym “David Van Etten.”

Trip Carver, “the network’s daytime president” and her mother’s “third ex-husband,” likes it enough to give her a job writing the soap, which she calls Likely Story. Finally, Mallory has a chance to one-up her mother and to write a soap which might even have some literary merit, like a Chekov play or a Dickens novel. What’s more, she can work with her best friend, and everything will be wine and roses.

Except that although the network VPs and Trip claim they like the idea of a soap which is about real-life teenagers, the reality is that ratings are more important to them. They begin to alter her show to include more adults, in order to appeal to an adult audience who are more - umm – likely to watch the show. Also, though Amelia does well in the tryouts for the role of Sarah, at least two other actresses do better. Mallory has promised the role to Amelia but is faced with the unenviable task of telling her the studio brass want to go with a different actress.

Her own school life has its soap opera-like aspects, too. She really likes a guy at her school, Keith, and would like him to be her boyfriend, but he has told her he already has a girlfriend, Erika. They flirt with each other, though, and kiss each other, and play a sort of game where they think up names to call each other, like Odie and Garfield, or Ophelia and Hamlet.

Mallory wants Keith to leave Erika and just go out with her, but Keith always comes up with reasons to stay with Erika despite his growing feelings for Mallory. Besides Mallory’s attraction for Keith, she also finds herself crushing on the attractive actor picked to play Ryan, the lead male role of her soap.

The pages Mallory writes for her soap read like an actual play or TV show, and I liked reading about crazy things her mother has done on past episodes of Good as Gold as Geneva, such as getting abducted by aliens. I personally don’t care much for soaps, though in college I admit to sometimes catching an episode of All My Children here and there. Still, I found myself getting into this novel, and Mallory’s determination to succeed despite the odds makes her easy to root for.

Likely Story is probably primarily targeted towards a teen girl audience, but it has enough really good writing and humorous moments to appeal to an audience of both girls and guys. It’s a promising beginning to the series, though a bit short at just 230 pages. I would liked to have read more about whether or not Amelia ever gets over her feelings of being stabbed in the back by Mallory. That’s kind of left up in the air, but I’m guessing the authors are going to delve into that more in sequels to this book, and possibly more into Mallory’s love life and her split feelings for Keith and Ryan.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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