I'm a Los Angeles native and I get a kick out of reading stories set in my hometown. Thank you to Little A for an advanced copy of Liana Maeby's South on Highland, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - Leila Massey is talented and lucky. Her screenwriting career took off before she could finish college, so she dropped out to chase her dream. The only thing standing in the way of her success is a drug problem that is quickly going from recreational to functional to full-blown-out-of-control. As her career is taking off, Leila makes a series of wrong choices with the wrong men and quickly finds that Hollywood will not wait around for her to clean up her act. Will she be able to get clean and salvage her career?
LIKE - Leila is a mess and that drives the story. She's impulsive and rarely says no to trying any new experience, which means pretty much any drug that comes her way. While these experiences may be good for her writing career, they are destroying her life. Just when it seems like Leila had to have hit bottom, she would get herself into another heap of trouble. There is no end to the trouble that she manages to find. I kept turning the pages, just to see where this train wreck was headed next. What's fascinating about Maeby's novel, is that it allowed me to go through Leila's experiences, but from the safety of my own couch. The story is visceral, intense and graphic.
South on Highland is fiction, but it also supposedly mirrors the life of Liana Maeby, which is probably why it rings so true. I wonder how different this story would be, if Maeby had written her memoir instead. I suspect some of the more outlandish parts of South on Highland are actually based on real events.
I enjoyed the Southern California setting, which was not limited to Los Angeles, but also extended to the desert, when Leila takes a road trip out towards the Coachella Valley to do research for a script. It's funny and completely believable that there could be a commune/cult of twenty-somethings living a permanent Burning Man existence in the desert.
DISLIKE- Many sections of the story are spliced with a screenplay style, which sometimes highlights an event that just happened or continues the story. I often found it to be a distraction to the flow of the story. It felt like a gimmick to me. It was odd to use the script to retell a scene that had already occurred, backtracking the story. This device wasn't consistent in how it was used and it came across as awkward.
RECOMMEND- Yes. For a story about addiction, South on Highland is surprisingly fresh and humorous. In theme and style, I was reminded of Bret Easton Ellis, an author that I really love. South on Highland is a quick read and a real page turner.