Friday, November 30, 2012

So...My Overall Crabby Take on "Superstar Secrets"

Admittedly, as a fifty year old man who has never watched the show on which this book is based, it would be an understatement to say I’m not the target audience of “Superstar Secrets” a Hannah Montana novel.

It was a for-the-heck-of-it read, as I recently blogged about an old Partridge Family book and an old Brady Bunch book, and I was curious how this book was compared. (You can see my chapter by chapter blog at in the November of 2012 entries.) I wasn’t surprised that the book wasn’t very good, but I was a little sad about some of the ways it isn’t good.

If you look at the heroes and heroines of good children’s literature, they often struggled in life. Perhaps an orphan like Oliver Twist, Sarah Crewe or Harry Potter. Perhaps impoverished like Sounder’s master, Charlie Bucket or Katniss Everdeen. Children living in times of war like the Penvensies or the Marches.

Then we have the dilemmas faced by Miley Stewart in this book, and I assume the other books and in the TV show. She has a great life as a ‘normal’ kid going to Malibu High, but she also has a fabulous life as pop singer sensation, Hannah Montana. And she wants to keep both lives without giving up what either has to offer. It’s like she’s found a way to taste and digest the cake while keeping a perfect holographic image of it right there on the table. Neat trick if you can do it, but it doesn’t make for very compelling stories.

First of all, the ‘normal’ student at Malibu High is more privileged and has access to more wealth and pleasure than the vast majority of the world’s youth could ever imagine. But that isn’t enough, the character must not just have the advantages of the 1%, but the advantages of the .01% of pop stardom.

Next we, are asked to feel bad because this top secret pop stardom keeps the girl from having a completely free schedule. Or as M. C. King (who adapted this book from TV scripts) writes, “So, on weekends, Miley was usually booked…It was the one major drawback of being talented, fabulous, and internationally known.” Poor kid.
Because she chooses to live two lives, deception is a basic part of her lifestyle. Throughout the book, she deceives her potential boyfriend/boyfriend, first hiding her identity, and then her feelings.

And why does a 14 year old girl need a steady boy friend? Early in the book, Miley bemoans not having boyfriend, and hangs out with her friend, Lilly, as a sad consulation.

As if the fictional character didn’t provide a poor enough role model for kids struggling with self-esteem issues, we have the actress who played the pop sensational “growing up” in public with an increasingly sexualized image.

“Superstar Secrets” was #18 in the series. I don’t think I’ll get around to the books that came before or after.

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