It seems to be an unwritten rule of the current young adult market that you can’t be the star of one of these books and have good parents. This is especially true if you are in a futuristic novel. Danica Grayson of Glitter has two truly awful progenitors whom she wisely plans to escape before they can completely ruin her life. But for that she’s going to need money. A whole lot of money if she’s going to do it right.
In the future, the stock holders and corporate royalty of Sonoma Inc. get to the live the decadent lifestyle of 18th Century French nobles inside the luxurious walls of the Palace of Versailles. Outside the palace grounds the residents are not happy. They feel Sonoma skillfully, lawfully, but unethically lied and cheated the people of France out of a precious landmark. Within the palace, well, several of them are really unhappy. Chief among those unhappy palace minions is Danica, a young woman of acceptable but not particularly flashy lineage who finds herself engaged to the King. Unbeknownst to most, it is not Danica’s tiny waist or scintillating personality that secured her this lofty position. It was the fact that her mother has a recording of His Majesty trying to dispose of a young woman he just murdered that has led to Danica’s imminent nuptials. Blackmail can be really useful to a social climber and her mother is among the worst of them in this artificial world.
Danica is desperate to escape, chiefly because she has no doubt that once she is queen she will be completely at the mercy of a murderous, egotistical spoiled brat king. With her wedding day rapidly approaching, she steals a set of royal jewels. Then she connects with a group of smugglers who can supply her with a new identity that will enable her to leave the faux life of the palace behind and hide forever. Unfortunately, the fact that her face has been on screens all over the world means that her criminal allies are going to require way more money than a set of pricey jewels can provide to make her disappear. Danica needs to find a bigger, better income source and she has just two months in which to do it.
When she discovers her father stealing the stash of funds she robbed from others and then learns he is spending it on a new, highly addictive drug, she has an epiphany. The denizens of Versailles are desperate for escape of the chemical kind. If she mixes the drug, which has a transdermal delivery, with makeup, users can get high right under the noses of those who have been denying them this recreation. Danica prepares to go into business using the totally hot Saber as the liaison between herself and the manufacturer.
I don’t believe the old saying “blood will tell” but in Danica’s case it proves to be unfortunately true. She is every bit as selfish and scheming as her mother and as gullible and lacking in self-awareness as her father. As the unwilling dupe of two clever, conniving men (the drug dealer and the king) Danica repeatedly wreaks havoc in the existence of those around her. Ironically, it is those closest to her to whom she does the most damage. No surprise since this is, from what I understand, a rather standard occurrence when one deals in drugs.
The author tries to make Danica hip and sympathetic through her interactions with her good friend Lord Aaron and through a romance with the lovely and charming Saber but it doesn’t really work. Saber turns out to be a genuinely kind and good person in a bad situation, making Danica look even more like a selfish bitch. Lord Aaron’s appearances are among the few awkward moments in the book since they often feel like deus ex machina; she would need help, he would show up and save her, a mention was made of his latest male obsession and voila, he was gone.
Yet in spite of its unlikable heroine and occasional clunky moments, I found Glitter intriguing. I enjoyed watching a thoroughly selfish, rather vapid young person get some harsh life lessons taught to her by clever (if unrelentingly evil) people. The prose is smooth enough and the character building done well enough that I found myself a reluctant but addicted voyeur in the mess Danica was making of her life. While I am fairly certain that the series will end with Danica as the victor, I am interested to see just how that will be accomplished since at the end of this book she is in a precarious situation as relates to the King and the evil head of the drug cartel. I hope that somewhere along the way this girl picks up a heart and soul. She needs them.
Glitter has a difficult to swallow premise and lacks the easily relatable central character which most YA novels rely upon. That said it is an interesting look at how doing the wrong thing for the right reasons almost always backfires. I’m not sure what the best audience is for this book but it worked for this reader. I doubt I would lend it to my young nieces, though.