Ooh... how exciting... my first requested review!
Funny how this blog world works... I'm connected to the author of this book through one bloggy friend, Erin Annie - and one real life friend, the author's sister Keli! (Erin Annie is a real life friend now too!)
So, it's not too awkward that I won a free copy of the book from Erin Annie's blog give-away is it?
I don't care. I love free stuff. I love good books. And I love any mutual friend of my friends, real life, bloggy or otherwise!
This is a fiction based on reality. Semi-autobiographical?
Shantal was a fashion model in her college years and I'm guessing into her 20s, perhaps beyond. What we all typically think of as a glamorous career, tended to conflict with the beliefs of her Mormon (LDS) upbringing.
In Agency, the story is lifted from her actual experience, but because it is fiction she can take some liberties, maybe add some juicy details and probably tell some stories that she might not otherwise tell!
If that's not intriguing enough to pique your interest... well then, you're nothing like me.
I loved reading it just for the ability to wonder what was truth and what was fiction!!
The book tells the story of fictional Michelle Campbell, a smart, beautiful college girl working her way through school in the late 1980s. A mentor suggests modeling as a way to earn money for college.
It's the sort of story I like to immerse myself in. I become the main character for a week or two - so when I read a chapter or two before bedtime, I became a young beauty who turns heads, and attracts the terribly attractive, godly man I've been looking for my whole life! All the while she's pursuing modeling, he's pursuing her.
She's not sure she has what it takes to model, but finds that it's fun and eventually lucrative. Additionally, the modeling world, even in Utah, provides access to an exciting world and culture unlike her sheltered upbringing. That's the opening for conflict in the story, along with Michelle's desire to get an education and make something of herself rather than marry young and start popping out babies.
Personally, I remember that ambition, but it was hard to tap into while reading, because my ambitions have since changed dramatically. It was the big 80s -- hair was big, shoulder pads were big... careers were big. I too, wanted to have a career and then have babies, preferably with a man who was going to be Mr. Mom to my Diane Keaton/ Baby Boom character. Now, in my old age (okay, it's just middle age) I'm screaming at Michelle's character... "TAKE THE MAN! TAKE THE WONDERFUL, COMMITTED, GORGEOUS, FAITHFUL MAN!!! You'll never find one of these again! You're lucky to have found him at all!!!"
All the same, I enjoyed every page of the book, even when yelling at the main character.
My only negative issue is that while the book was set in the 1980s the author sometimes makes references that don't fit the time period - for example, name-dropping designers who weren't household names until much later... and referring to skinny jeans, which is a 2010-present reference. In the 80s, everybody's jeans (with the exception of mom jeans) were tight enough to cut off circulation, they were called Levi's 501's! And who knows, in the fashion world, perhaps those designer names were up-and-coming to those in the know.
Even so, that's rather picky of me, considering the book wasn't written as a period piece. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm the kind of person that gets irritated when the characters on Downton Abbey utter terms outside of the colloquialisms of their era. Other people don't even notice, but it's a bugaboo of mine!
The final verdict is, Agency is a fun, interesting read. There's enough drama and a touch of suspense wondering how her career is going to go versus how her relationship is going to go... with plenty of tension in other relationships due to Michelle's moody nature.
There is also a thread explaining the LDS faith and culture where it factors in, dispelling myths.
You can learn more about the book and the writing process from the author, Shantal Hiatt here and here. And buy the book here!
Congratulations Shantal! Great job!