Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Road To You by Alecia Whitaker

The Road To You is the second installment in Whitaker's Wildflower series about fictional country music star, Bird Barrett.

Bird's debut album, Wildflower, has been out for two months and has been selling well. Signed by Dan Silver of Open Highway Records, Bird's days are organized by her publicist, Anita, who guides her through appearances. She also has a stylist, Amanda, a hair stylist, Tammy and a make-up artist, Sam traveling with her.

The story opens as Bird, her father/manager, her mother Aileen and her two brothers, Dylan and Jacob, jet to Omaha where Bird is the new opening act for country superstar, Jolene Taylor. During the flight Bird reads online that Kayelee Ford, who was signed by Randall Strong of Great American Music, has a hot first single. Just like Bird, Kayelee is a promising new country singer. She is also shocked to discover that a tabloid has done a side-by-side comparison of her and Kayelee, in an attempt to create a rivalry between the two singers.

In Omaha, Bird meets and practices with her back-up band. Grateful to have the opportunity to open for Jolene, Bird attempts to thank her but finds Jolene somewhat distant. Bird's best friend, Stella Crossley, shows up along with her mother, Shannon who has mentored Bird, to watch her set. Missing Adam, the guy she fell in love with back home and gave up in order to pursue her music career, Bird has Stella text him just before going on stage. Adam responds by wishing her well. Her first opening is a great success leaving Bird completely overwhelmed. As she's recovering backstage she briefly encounters a handsome roadie. Bird and her mother also meet a famous country singer, Bonnie McLain. Bonnie advises Bird about life as a star telling her "Everybody loves you, but nobody knows you....It's just very important that through it all, you remember who you really are."

The next day Bird meets the roadie again at lunch and learns his name is Kai Chandler. Bird and Kai immediately connect over their love of music. Kai's easy going manner sets Bird at ease. From Omaha Bird and her entourage head out as part of Jolene's Sweet Home Tour to Los Angeles. Kai who is from L.A. gives Bird a list of places to visit when she arrives.

In L.A. Anita suggests to Bird that she consider moving to the city for part of the year so as to open up more music opportunities. Later on both Dan and Anita suggest to to Bird that she consider hiring a real manager to replace her dad. Dan also believes Bird should move to L.A. so she can eventually transition from country to mainstream. Bird is reluctant to consider any of their suggestions though, becoming upset about replacing her father.

At her first red carpet event, a film premiere that features one of her songs, Bird meets the leading actors, Jason Samuels and Devyn Delaney. Devyn and Jason were an item until only a few weeks ago. Bird is star struck over Devyn and her knowledge of people in Hollywood and quickly begins to realize that LA is definitely not Nashville.

Bird's relationship with Kai begins to heat up and she begins to slip more and more into the L.A. scene. But with all the stardom, the sudden wealth and publicity can Bird still hold on to who she really is?

Discussion

While the first novel, Wildflower focused on Bird's attempts to break into the country music scene, the second novel focuses on her life as a blossoming country music artist and the good and bad that brings with it.

In The Road To You, Bird must learn how to navigate the world of stardom. Through the character of Bird, Whitaker portrays the life of a rising music star including the many difficulties young artists experience. Bird quickly begins to experience first hand how being in the spotlight impacts her life. When her new friend, actress Devyn Delaney takes a picture of Bird holding a glass of champagne and posts it online, it causes some fallout for Bird. Her father is upset, fearing it will hurt her image and her rival takes advantage of the picture to criticize her. Bird defends herself, knowing she did nothing wrong even though the photo seems to show her drunk. Bird tells her father, "I did make the smart decision not to drink and yeah, it looks bad and I'm sorry, Dad. I really am. But you can tell Dan and Anita and Mom and stupid Kayalee Ford and whoever else cares so much about my life that you know the truth. I didn't get drunk last night. I didn't."

Bird begins to realize how difficult it is to maintain a relationship with someone. Her relationship with Kai takes off very quickly when they are on tour together but once he leaves and she's home first in Nashville and then in Los Angeles, the distance and the difference in their lives and ages work against them. Complicating things is the realization that Bird still has feelings for Adam.

She also starts to realize how easy it is to be influenced by others. Devyn takes Bird shopping on Rodeo Drive. At first Bird is reluctant to buy anything. "I'm eager to join in the fun - hey, why not? -- until I see the price tags. Some of this stuff costs four times as much as we'd make for a Barrett Family Band gig...and that had to feed five people!...So I resist the urge to shop for myself and try to be a good audience for Devyn without admitting to her that my parents would go nuts if I dropped this kind of change on my wardrobe." However later on, Devyn convinces Bird to spend the money that she has earned. Devyn tells her "It's not about needing anything, Bird. It's about celebrating your success." When Bird tells her her parents would kill her for spending this kind of money Devyn tells her "It's your money...And you're working your butt off for it, too." In the end, Bird drops nine thousand dollars on clothing, shoes and purses, much to the shock of her parents. Bird must deal with her parents disappointment. 


Bird begins to experience the competitive nature of the music industry as exemplified by the tabloids creating a rivalry between herself and Kaylee Ford who was signed by the producer Bird turned down. Adam brings some perspective to the situation when he tells her that Kayelee is not responsible for what is happening and that her label has pitted the two of them against each other.  He reminds Bird that her parents have put enormous pressure on Kayelee and that this has created a strong fear of failing in her.  "And I just don't see how the bad blood helps either of you," he says, shrugging. "Seems like a waste of energy and a huge distraction to me." The situation is made worse by the fact that the one person she thought was her friend - Devyn sets her up for a confrontation with Kayelee at a friend's New Years Eve party.

One strong theme in this novel is that of friendship. Both Stella Crossley and Adam demonstrate that they are Bird's true friends. While Devyn gossips about Kayelee and manipulates Bird into a confrontation with her rival, Stella is there to try to encourage Bird to step back and to leave the party. Similarly Adam encourages Bird to "not get lost in it" referring to the constant scrutiny.

However, the novel closes with Bird beginning to regain her balance, setting the stage for a highly anticipated third novel. Look for Bird to restart her relationship with Adam, to become friends with Kayelee and to come to terms with her life as a celebrity.

Readers will enjoy Whitaker continuing to present Bird Barrett as a positive role model; she's honest, she cares about the people around her, she remains true to her belief that she wants to wait for the person who will be her life partner and she struggles to remain true to who she is.



Book Details:

The Road To You by Alecia Whitaker
New York: Little, Brown and Company      2015
337 pp.


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