Monday, May 20, 2013

The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales

The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales
Release Date – May 21, 2013
Publisher Website -  It Books/Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader
Pages - 288 pages
My Rating- 4/5
**obtained for review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Meet the Bling Ring: six club-hopping LA teenagers accused of stealing more than $3 million in clothing and jewelry from the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson and other young members of the Hollywood elite-allegedly the most audacious burglary gang in recent history.

Driven by celebrity worship, vanity, and the desire to look and dress like the rich and famous, the Bling Ring made headlines in 2009 for using readily available sources-like Google maps, Facebook and TMZ, to track the comings and goings of their targets. Seven teens were arrested for the crimes, and instantly became tabloid fodder. The world asked-how did the American obsession with celebrity get so out of hand? And why did a band of ostensibly privileged LA teens take such a risk?

Vanity Fair reporter Nancy Jo Sales found the answer: they did it because they could. And because it was just that easy.

Author of the acclaimed Vanity Fair story on the Bling Ring "The Suspect Wore Louboutins," Sales gained unprecedented access to the Hollywood thieves, and in the process uncovered a dark world of teenage arrogance, greed, obsession, and delusion. Now, for the first time in a full book length work, Sales details the Bling Ring crimes up close and in depth, and reveals the key players' stories in a shocking look at the seedy world of the real young Hollywood.
Reviewing a non fiction novel has always been tricky for me. You're talking about real people and real situations. It's harder to critique someone personally than examine a character's flaws in a fiction novel. This novel however resonated with me, and it was surprisingly not the people involved, but the author's insight that spoke to me. The Bling Ring examines the perfect storm of current celebrity culture, and the boom of around the clock news reporting, and it's resulting impact on today's youth.

A case is made that these teenagers had access to round the clock information about these celebrities thanks to websites like TMZ. The shift in this type of reporting happened right around the time this was happening, and the dynamics changed everything. Celebrities were more accessible (or appeared that way) than ever. Twitter helped knock over some of those walls as well. It presented a different culture than before. Celebrities have always had a certain mystic, especially in 'Old Hollywood' and this lifted the veil. It made the  celebrities seem touchable.

The impact of Reality TV is also looked at. The entire notion of fame being easily obtained has always been around. However, talent was normally part of that equation. Reality TV ushered in a new era. One could be famous, even infamous, and talent was optional. I could see immediately how these individuals could have thought this would get the access into the club they so desperately wanted to be part of.

The refrain of "they have so much" was prevalent from numerous suspects involved in this case. I found it interesting that the idea of Occupy Wall Street and the whole '1 percent' notion was just a few years off. I suspect many may not feel sympathy for the victims. Their victims may have had 'more than enough' (and this point is shown by the fact that some couldn't even given a full list of items taken because they simply couldn't recall everything they owned) but something precious was stolen from them - a feeling of safety. Orlando Bloom's Grand Jury testimony in particular was heart tugging. You felt the violation, and hurt in his words. It was interesting to see how many of them couldn't return to those homes as a result of what happened.

I was both flabbergasted, and partially amused by the fact that one of the accused was wearing Orlando Bloom's shirt in his mug shot. It spoke to their arrogance, and belief that they wouldn't get caught. One of the police offers references that they were 'really bad at not getting caught' and that sums it up perfectly. They flaunted their crimes, the goods, and almost courted the notoriety that would stem from their actions. As Nancy Jo Sales says 'they did it because it was easy' and as a result felt they could get away with it. The teens came across as celebrity obsessed, and rather jaded. They were simply bored. They wanted to be part of what they deemed 'the life style' and this came across as their way of attaining it.

Nancy Jo Sales did a wonderful job of remaining impartial and is even sometimes sympathetic with some of the teens involved. She also holds nothing back when it comes to the vapid, self interested aspect of their personality. She allows these people to speak for themselves, and allows the reader to connect the dots from there.

Anyone with a passing interest in the case when it broke back in 2009, or who is eagerly anticipating the release of Sofia Coppola's film should check this out. I would venture that anyone interested in pop culture, and current events may find much to enjoy as well. An almost unbelievable story of young Hollywood that left me stunned and speechless.

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