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Vivian Divine Is Dead Hardcover – June 3, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Someone is after Hollywood's "it" girl. Teen film star, Vivian Divine, has always followed in her famous mother's footsteps—but this time, she'd rather not. Her mother was murdered six months ago, and when Vivian receives a mysterious death threat with alarming parallels to her mother's tragic end, she flees incognito to Mexico. The Hollywood princess is on her own and out of her element, trying to stay alive while unraveling the mystery of who's chasing her and why. Her odds of survival increase when she meets the attractive Nick—but he may not be who he seems. This action-packed novel is enjoyably quirky, though ambitious—there's a lot going on, and characterization takes a backseat to plot. The writing shines in the scenes of a richly described Día de los Muertos celebration, and Vivian's journey through rural Mexico will keep readers in suspense as the heroine faces danger at every turn. In the end, though, there's heavy reliance on coincidence. The story's climax plays out like a melodrama—or, perhaps, given the setting, it's a self-aware reference to the plot twists of a telenovela, with shocking betrayals and dramatic reveals. It's hard to tell whether the book's tone is meant to be sincere or tongue-in-cheek. Still, this will appeal to readers looking for a fast-paced romp with suspense, action, and romance—with an encouraging message of self-actualization as Vivian learns she's capable of more than she knew.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA
Despite the title, teen movie star Vivian Divine isn’t dead—yet. Life in her seemingly ideal Hollywood world isn’t going great: Vivian’s boyfriend and costar cheats on her with her best friend, and she feels like no one really knows who she really is. But there are bigger problems afoot. Vivian receives a death threat, and now she is on the run from strange men who want to kill her, just like they killed her mother. When she has to make a dangerous trek to Mexico for safety and anonymity, she is surprised to find out how resilient, resourceful, and strong she really is. There are thrills and chills, both scary and romantic, as Vivian finds out the truth behind the glossy lies and falls for a darkly handsome stranger. The danger piles on fast and hard and feels both real and chilling through Vivian’s first-person narration. The teenage movie-star novel isn’t new, but debut author Sabel adds a new spin to the shiny plastic movie world by revealing a gritty, violent underbelly. Grades 9-12. --Stacey Comfort
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I didn’t like one character in this book. I can usually find at least one person I kind like in a book, but this was the largest group of unlikable people I’ve seen in one place in a long time. Everyone is entitled, rude, or completely off their rocker. Vivian plays the pampered Hollywood actress perfectly. Even though she’s lost her mother I just never feel any empathy for her. Her relationship with Nick is unbelievable. As far as Nick goes, he was no swoon worthy and kind of flat.
My other issue is that the events in this book were so incredibly unbelievable. The story also didn’t flow all that well for me. I kept stopping to ask myself how we even to that point in the book. It just didn’t make sense. Maybe I’m explaining this wrong. I know how how the events happened and how they got there, it just didn’t flow very well. Then I got to the end and there was no closure. I want to know what happens to these people. I think I at least deserve that much after making it through the entire book.
Pretty much the worst thing you can do is promise me action in a book and then not deliver. I was hoping it would at least be cute. This is definitely not a book I’d recommend to anyone.
Quick & Dirty: Vivian Divine is Dead is a gripping masterpiece with a creepy, exciting premise.
Opening Sentence: My name is Vivian Divine.
Vivian Divine is a child star. Her mother, Pearl Divine, was named World’s Sexiest Woman multiple times and her father is one of the most successful directors in Hollywood. Her life should be perfect, but it’s spiraled out of control. Her boyfriend Pierre was caught by the paparazzi kissing her best friend. Her mother was murdered and her father tried to kill himself, and would have if Vivian hadn’t stopped him in time. And Vivian just got a note, the same note that her mother got days before she was murdered, that tells her of her impending death. Now Vivian must go on the run, trying to save herself from whatever had got her mother.
Vivian Divine is a fantastic character. She’s like any other teenager, struggling with self-confidence while having to deal with what might be her death. Her emotions are described so wonderfully. Throughout the book, she finds strength in herself, and realizes that she isn’t as weak as she seemed. And then there is Nick — the love interest, who by the way, I thought was perfect. This character is lovable and not too perfect, as some authors make the mistake of doing to their characters.
Right from the get go, we are immersed into Vivian’s life and hooked almost immediately. I was so glued to the pages it was almost painful to shut off the light, since it was pretty late. It doesn’t take long to really understand Vivian and sympathize with her. She has such a unique personality and yet is like any other adolescent on the face of the earth. There aren’t many calm moments in this book, but when there is, it almost makes the peaceful moment more peaceful because of the chaos that usually occupies the chapters.
If I could say one downside of Vivian Divine is Dead it would have to be the mystery aspect. It was sometimes confusing to connect the dots and piece it together, but Vivian would already completely understand and be moving on. I wish that sometimes she had clarified. It wasn’t that bad, but I certainly was confused a few times, make no mistake. It’s a good thing the story was so enthralling that I didn’t care too much! Sadly, though, that knocked it down one star to the still-killer four star rating.
Vivian Divine is Dead is an exciting thrill ride through the life of one child star just trying to stay alive. It has betrayal, mystery, and love on every other page, seamlessly threading together into an amazing novel. If you don’t love this than I would be very surprised. Plus, you get to see more into the Mexican culture, which is lots of fun. Just a note: Spanish is used in this book, but if you have a basic understanding (cómo, bueno, etc.) than you should be good. Oftentimes it is translated but sometimes it isn’t — keep that in mind. Otherwise, make sure to pick this up as soon as possible!
“We need to talk to you,” Sparrow says, pushing through the reporters. Her whiny voice reminds me of the nights we used to stay up with Mar, listening to stories about first kisses and true love. Since Sparrow went to an all-girls school and I was homeschooled by a private tutor neither of us knew much about boys, until I started dating Pierre. Before she stole him from me. “It was a mistake.”
“Kissing my boyfriend was a mistake?” I shriek so loudly the reporters take a step back before lunging forward again. Get is together. Never lose your temper in front of a camera. I can see the headlines: Teen Star Slaps Former Best Friend in Fit of Rage. Career Plunges.
FTC Advisory: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins provided me with a copy of Vivian Divine is Dead. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Put all of these elements together, though, and you have one of the most evocative and original YA debuts I've read in quite a while. Clear some space in your schedule before reading this one; you won't be able to put it down.(