“Kate’s To-Do List:
Go to rehab
Befriend/spy on “It Girl”
Write killer expose
Land dream job
Piece of cake!
When Kate Sandford lands an interview at her favorite music magazine, The Line, it’s the chance of a lifetime. So Kate goes out to celebrate—and shows up still drunk to the interview the next morning. It’s no surprise that she doesn’t get the job, but her performance has convinced the editors that she’d be perfect for an undercover assignment for their gossip rag. All Kate has to do is follow “It Girl” Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop—and complete the thirty-day program—they’ll reconsider her for the position at The Line. Kate takes the assignment, but when real friendships start to develop, she has to decide if what she has to gain is worth the price she’ll have to pay.”
Thoughts: Everything about Spin can fool one into thinking that this debut novel of Catherine McKenzie is yet another YA novel about a troubled teen. In fact, it is anything but. Instead, it fills a niche for Gen Y, those who are struggling to establish themselves in the workplace and continue to drift through life thanks to a miserable economy and high amounts of personal debt. It draws on the fascination with celebrity gossip and turns a scathing eye on those who are willing to do anything to be the first to break a story about the celebrity du jour, while presenting a fascinating look at the fine line between partying and addiction.
Kate is the girl who does not want to grow up. Still passing herself off as a twenty-something grad student, she has no real job and no real desire to do anything but enjoy the next night out with her friends. Her opinion on alcohol is scarily realistic, and her ability to ignore her conscience is all-too-accurate. Yet, for someone who does some pretty horrific deeds all in the name of landing her dream job, she is exceedingly vulnerable while simultaneously providing much-needed comic relief for a story that could become too intense without it.
Catherine McKenzie does an excellent job balancing the seriousness of her messages – the seriousness and struggles of addiction, the damaging fascination with celebrity watching – with the heartwarming character development elements of the story. Kate’s and Amber’s struggles are not meant to be fun, and yet SPIN is not meant to be a tragedy. There is a breeziness to Ms. McKenzie’s writing that lessens the more depressing elements and provides some much-needed hope to the entire story.
Spin flirts dangerously close to being overly trite and saccharin-sweet. What prevents it from crossing that line is Kate’s growing awareness that she just might have an alcohol problem after all. Her increasing self-awareness and battle with her inner demons adds a level of gravitas that does not exist in YA, as her demons are decidedly adult. In a society which glorifies alcohol, partying, and celebrity watching, Spin forces the reader to pause and reconsider these popular pastimes and the damage they are causing. It is a powerful message wrapped up in an easy-to-swallow, enjoyable package.