Title: Suffer! A Hollywood Novel
Author: A.C. Sloan
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Roxy DeVine is the diva star of “Suffer!”, a hugely successful TV crime series. When a contest is launched for fans of the show to win a chance to watch the finale with her, high-maintenance Roxy assumes she will be able to choose appropriate ‘superfans.’
However, her arch-nemesis and writer of “Suffer!”, Marelle May, has other ideas and they include competition entrants Theo, Sam, Pris, and Dotty, the “Suffergettes of Arleta,” outsiders, who hail from the wrong side of Los Angeles. What could possibly go wrong?
Suffer! opens with a blistering prologue introducing Roxy DeVine in a compromisingly confined state. It’s not clear what has occurred and, consequently, provides an instantly intriguing hook.
The reader is then taken back two months and straight into the world of Suffer! Superfans: Theodosia (“Theo”), her high-functioning autistic younger half-sister, Pristine (“Pris”), great aunt Dotty, and Theo’s flamboyant best friend, Sam.
There is an immediate sense of the unshakeable bond between the four characters. Their interactions read with warm authenticity as the reader is quickly immersed into their lives on the fringes of society.
Their everyday struggles and vulnerabilities are rendered amusingly but with a level of poignancy that leaves the reader in no doubt of their seriousness.
Pris is exceptionally well-depicted. Sam is a touch cliché, but he works well in the group, driving a fair amount of the action later and counteracting Theo’s angst. Dotty is hilarious and Sloan is careful to never let her colorful behavior tip into boorishness.
There is a breezy confidence in Sloan’s prose. It’s simple, fun, and fast-paced, making it an effortless, but riveting, read. The narrative moves swiftly between characters, switching perspectives to ensure the reader has enough enticing hints of foreshadowing to keep the pages turning.
There is also a strong visual aspect that nicely complements the subject matter and a natural, intuitive feel for the current climate, especially concerning the intrinsic reality of social media without blatant over-referencing.
When the reader enters the toxic world of Hollywood, it’s wickedly apparent Sloan knows what’s she writing about. She brings an insightful assurance to the viciously funny observations of the network people and their disgraceful yet ultimately pathetic behavior.
Roxy DeVine and Marelle May are fairly stock characters and are sprinkled with satire, but Sloan fleshes them out with tantalizing backstory flashbacks that just explain, if not excuse, their atrocious conduct.
However, the story essentially belongs to the “Suffergettes.” When their interests converge with those of the TV network, and DeVine in particular, the chapters are comedy gold, and like all good comedy gently brushed with pathos.
Sloan expertly ratchets up the tension during the scenes set in the Suffergettes’ house, throwing several small curveballs and some not-so-subtle ones. The reader is then hurtled down a surreal rabbit hole that somewhat alters the fundamentals of the story so far.
Theo’s characterization suffers the most as twist after unexpected twist occurs and her individuality becomes a little swallowed by events. There is a motive for her actions with DeVine and a point to be made, but it does change the reader’s viewpoint, and occasionally feels unsettling.
Nonetheless, the quality of Sloan’s writing ensures that the story maintains gripping interest as, frankly, the reader has no clue where it’s heading and Sloan cleverly dials it down before credibility is stretched too far. The ending has some nicely obvious in-jokes and a neatly satisfying conclusion.
Suffer! is a riotously entertaining debut novel that explores some profoundly dark issues underneath the polished, whip-smart prose. Sharply contemporary and highly enjoyable, Suffer! promises much of first-time novelist Sloan.
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