From Publishers Weekly
The 2003 movie Wonderland vivified Schiller's teenage experience under the thrall of a drug-addled porn star in L.A. in the late 1970s, while this long docudrama expands on that raw era to include her peripatetic, dysfunctional upbringing and aftermath as a survivor. The daughter of a Vietnam vet and a German woman he met and married overseas, Schiller spent her early years moving around to accommodate her father's military career, especially between New Jersey and the suburbs of Miami. After a free-wheeling road trip, the family ended up in Glendale, Calif., where Schiller met John Holmes, the charismatic 32-year-old married manager of an apartment complex they happened to crash in. Holmes clearly took on a fatherly role to young Schiller, whose own father left her to her own devices, including feeding herself. She was 15, and he had a thriving secret career as a porn star. She eventually moved in with Holmes and his sympathetic wife, Sharon, though drugs soon changed the dynamic to erratic behavior: Holmes beat and prostituted Schiller before she fled, and he became entangled in the so-called Wonderland murders of 1981. This is the grim, interminable plight of a "throwaway" teen with nowhere else to go, a cautionary tale in workmanlike prose.
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Curiously enough for a book concerned with notorious pornographic film star John Holmes, there is very little emphasis on sex here. Instead, Schiller, who met Holmes in 1976 when she was just 15, details their five-year love affair, the stability he provided in the wake of her troubled childhood, and the deterioration of their relationship after Homes became addicted to cocaine and was ultimately arrested. While in the grip of drug-fueled paranoia, he would beat her while also forcing her to prostitute herself for money to feed his habit. Her vulnerability is revealed by the fact that she spends as much time describing the way he casually destroyed her beloved Christmas gifts as she does the degradations he forced her to undergo. The most fascinating person in the book is Holmes' wife, Sharon, a dedicated nurse who claims she was ignorant of Holmes and Schiller's relationship; indeed, she became more of a mother to Dawn than her own mother ever was. Dawn's story is so volatile and dysfunctional that even her labored prose can't mask the drama of lives spinning out of control. --Joanne Wilkinson