Erika J. Kendrick
Random House, $14, 293pp
Confessions of a Rookie Cheerleader
Erika J. Kendrick
Random House, $13.95, 294pp
And the world is right again…
Okay, first, from the publisher, here are the plot lines. About Confessions, Erika’s debut novel: “A savvy young music exec for Rockstar Records, Hannah Love has a glamorous apartment and a tight pack of equally fine friends. But luxury and loyalty can’t protect her from a broken heart, courtesy of her super-rich fiancé. To recover, Hannah accelerates her already high-octane life by pursuing a fantasy she’s had since childhood: to become an NBA cheerleader for the Chicago Diamonds. As she juggles promoting the hottest singer on the rise, dodges advances from Rockstar’s ultra-slick VP, and puts her body and her will to the test during cut-throat tryouts for a spot on the Diamond Dolls squad, she receives the full attention of the team’s star player, Max Knight. Though the Dolls are strictly forbidden to date players, the heat between Hannah and Max builds on the sidelines. But as catty cheerleaders plot against her, and her boss at the record company secretly negotiates a merger that could leave her jobless, Hannah discovers that it may take much more than the lust for a hot man to hold her steady. It may take his love.”
From Appetite, Erika’s follow-up title: “With her exotic looks and killer body, Kennedy Lee is a rising star in the reality TV and soap opera worlds. Now she’s really hit the big time and landed a role on the hugely popular daytime drama America’s Next Sweetheart. As this news coincides with Kennedy’s birthday, her friends take her out for a wild night on the town. So wild, in fact, that the next morning Kennedy wakes up with a hard-bodied hunk in her bed, a vicious headache, and no recollection of how this gorgeous guy ended up beside her – naked. Not only that, but it’s her first day at the new gig, and Page Six has already chronicled her previous night’s exploits, calling her “America’s Next Lush.”
Together, Confessions and Appetite tell the story of three BFF girlfriends (yeah, she goes there), Hannah, and twin sisters Brittany and Kennedy, each at the brink of career success and emotional chaos. From penthouse apartments to haute couture, to court side seats and sipping Cristal while riding limousines, these girls are walking, talking, and living bling. At first I thought, nobody lives like this really. Then I realized, I don't live like this really, and Erica has access to a world that anyone would die for.
These are great stories; you will love them both. But while Confessions is playful and entertaining, Appetite is by far the more nuanced and emotionally engaging. But I always look for the under story - not so much the subplots, but the cultural story behind the story. And here is where author Erica pulls a cultural 180. In Confessions, professional basketballer Max Knight becomes Hannah's black knight in shining armor. In Appetite, five-years sexually celibate and newly-crowned star of 'America's Next Sweetheart', Kennedy finds a blonde stud in her bed after a wild night of celebrating her new job. She makes the daily’s Page 6 from that escapade, and then quickly proceeds to bed her executive producer, Sam Cohen, both bringing unwanted grief. Surely, she has the fever and her friends exhort her to come back to the other, safer, side. Herein lays a nuance within the title...an Appetite for what exactly?
Kennedy does come back, now to the arms of Cole ‘the Beast’ (of course) Winters, baller and teammate to Max Knight. All four, Jesse (her blonde stud), Sam, Cole, and Max (Hannah's man) are moneyed and successful – an even playing field. When Erika makes Sam and Jesse the bad boys and Max and Cole the do-good men, you just know it’s a setup. She soon resets the stereotype: Cole becomes possessive and controlling and Max never sets a marriage date with Hannah, allowing the cover for Kennedy to choose power over success. Moral of the never-ending story: power trumps success; white trumps black; security trumps love.
In the end, Hannah waits for the uncommitted Max; Brittany, Kennedy's emotionally-disconnected, equal-sexual opportunity hyper-active twin, longs to make peace with her past; Cole keeps ballin'; the white knight claims his rightful place; the beautiful black maiden warming his cockles. And the world is right, again…
Don't hate, Erika; I'm just saying...