Coming-of-age Story, Fiction

Musical Monday: THE UNRAVELING OF CASSIDY HOLMES

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

No mysteries today, folks. I’m talking about the fake bands.

Summary and Introduction

Cassidy Holmes is the about the members of the fictional pop band, Gloss. The novel is told in media res, dropping the reader right into the middle of the story three of them band members, Rose, Merry and Yumi, discover that their fourth member, Cassidy, has been found dead in her home. The narrative then goes backwards and forwards through time using the girls’ multiple viewpoints to tell about the rise and fall of America’s most sensational pop band.

If you can’t tell by that intro, this is not a happy tale. It’s realistic and at times heartbreaking. There are a lot of people comparing it to Daisy Jones and the Six, but they really shouldn’t. Whereas Daisy Jones did touch on the dark side of the music industry in the late 70s-early 80s, it was also a celebration of the music of that era. Cassidy Holmes does not celebrate anything, and it’s set in the early 2000s.

However, possibly because of its resemblance to that novel, I’ve had a really hard time rating this novel. There’s a lot about it that I love, but there’s also a lot about it that I…don’t hate but definitely question. Ultimately, it’s a good read, but in my opinion, it has some glaring first novel flaws that could have easily been fixed before publication.

As such, I’m going to start with what bothered me about the novel before moving onto the positives.

The Problems

Overall, I thought most of the characters were well written, which is probably why the two characters that I found cliche really stuck out to me.

The first offender is Rose, who instead of being a well-rounded anti-villain, comes across as a cliche angry lesbian (offensive!) who’s trapped herself in the closet. I understand that the author wrote her to be a “love her or hate her” character, but how can you love someone who has not redeeming qualities.

She does try to take care of her first girlfriend, Viv, when she gets sick, but by that point it felt like Viv had just been thrown in to humanize an otherwise impossibly icee character. In the end, instead of embracing who she is, Rose only “comes out” to try and steal a job from her bandmate, Yumi. For Rose, she is totally motivated by fame, and absolutely nothing else.

Now, for that second offender. Let me just say here that this is the second novel (the first being Dracula) that made me stop and ask the important question: Why is there a cowboy here?

This book is about a pop band, so why on earth is country music star Stephen St. James loping in with his big black cowboy hat (it’s black because he’s evil) and making sweet Cassidy swoon?

He starts out as Cassidy’s competitor on the book’s version of American Idol, and as such he makes sense. It also makes sense that he would be around a bit after the band gets its record contract because he’s represented by the same label. However, toward the end of the novel he is brought on to open for Gloss on their international tour! He claims that his most recent album is “more rock” but that would still be like Lynyrd Skynyrd opening for Destiny’s Child or Blake Shelton opening for Brittany Spears–it does not make sense!

The only reason I can thing author Elissa R. Sloan would make St. James a country music artist instead of a popstar is to fulfill some type of stereotype about all cowboys being abusive jerks, and for a book that works so hard to show the reader how hurtful stereotypes are, that is terribly upsetting.

My final problem was the lack of 9/11 stuff. The attack is mentioned only in passing when Cassidy notes that the band had recorded a song about it. It would have been more realistic if the readers could have seen that event actually impact the characters lives. It should have. They were on tour at the time of the attacks. Maybe the author wrote it this way to make a point about the girls being too caught up in their own world to worry about what was happening in real life?

The Good Stuff

I promise that the good far outweighs the bad in this novel, so let me move on to that.

I blasted through the first half of the book based on nostalgia alone! As someone who grew up in the early 2000s, I definitely filmed my own music videos with my friends and dreamed of being the next big pop sensation. I wanted the instant fame of winning American Idol or being on MTV, and Cassidy gets to live that life with a realistic touch that comes like a slap in the face which leads me to my next favorite point.

I love the way this novel dealt with mental illness, trauma, eating disorders, and all of those taboo things that are typically either under-represented or wrongly represented in literature today. This novel is packed with examples of this (there’s literally a trigger-warning in the beginning of the book), so I’ll just focus on Cassidy.

Cassidy suffers from depression, an undiagnosed eating disorder, and an abusive cowboy. Her POV chapters are amazing in that they show a realistic representation of the way a person with depression would think. I know, I’ve been there, and it’s so refreshing to see a character in fiction portray these same thoughts. People need literary characters like Cassidy to see that they are not alone, and I applaud the author for creating her this way.

That said, Cassidy, Yumi and Merry are incredible well developed characters. I especially loved Yumi’s arc as she changed from a character who resented her fame after being made the “token Asian” of the group–complete with offensive nicknames and being forced to wear Chines characters when she is actually Japanese–into a character who strove to use her fame to help others. Merry’s arc was equally dynamic, and I loved her relationship with her daughter.

Overall

If you want to read a book that keeps you glued to the pages with great structure and introduces you to some amazingly realistic characters, I strongly suggest you give this a shot.

11 thoughts on “Musical Monday: THE UNRAVELING OF CASSIDY HOLMES”

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