Elissa R. Sloan
Paperback (also available as an e-book, an audiobook, and on audio CD), 979-0-0630-0944-8, 448 pgs., $16.99
September 1, 2020
“How do you live knowing the real version of yourself, while every other person in the world thinks they know a different version of you?”
Fame is a thief. While it grants notoriety, wealth, and adoration, it steals identities and true friendships and creates conflict and false fronts. For Cassidy Holmes, a dream come true becomes her worst nightmare.
Cassidy’s music career begins at an audition for Sing It, America! in Houston, Texas, while she is still a teenager. Nothing prepares her for the slow unraveling over the years that cannot be stopped, no matter how popular she becomes, how much money she makes, how many autographs she signs, or how many fake smiles she presents to adoring fans and the paparazzi.
As the fourth member of an all-girl pop group, Gloss, Cassidy becomes known as “Sassy Gloss,” falling into well-choreographed step with Meredith Merry Cherry, Yumiko Yumi Yummy, and Rose Rosie. Sassy, Cherrie, Yummy, and Rosie embark on a journey of fame and fortune that leaves no one unscathed when the sound recordings stop, the lights dim, and the makeup fades from exhausted faces.
The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan is a bold first novel with no holds barred on sensitive topics, such as mental illness and depression, sexuality, body shaming and objectification, and the high cost of fame on health and relationships. This novel tracks the meteoric rise of pop sensation Gloss, from when the girls traveled from mall to mall to perform in front of shoppers to their sold-out international tours filled with screaming fans.
Cassidy is a last-minute replacement when the group forms in 2000, and her acceptance among the other girls is swift yet rocky. The chapters jump between the present tragedy and the first years of the group’s spectacular entrance on the global stage. This construction is easy to follow and marks the scintillating yet heartbreaking events of Cassidy’s unraveling, with a salient view of how still waters definitely run deep and how trust and betrayal are two sides of the same coin.
Sloan’s writing and narration are smooth and promptly bring the reader into a world filled with sunny smiles that mask unspeakable pain. Fans of celebrities want the gossip, rumors, and tragedies as much as they want the glamour and perfect bodies, but what they do not want is to see the famous experience struggle and heartache just like they do. Celebrities are real people who display a façade in the public eye, but what happens when that façade cracks or becomes too heavy to bear and exacts too high a price as fickle fame waxes and wanes?
Ultimately, The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes is a tragedy, but it is melancholy and engaging rather than overly depressing and completely disheartening. This novel is a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of stardom, especially when the celebrities are still growing into adulthood, when that popularity hits with relentless, unforgiving vengeance. This fast-paced story is ideal for anyone who wants a behind-the-scenes peek at the tarnished truth that magically transforms into a glittering veneer when that first musical note resounds and that blinding spotlight shines.
Elissa R. Sloan grew up in Houston, Texas. Born to a Japanese immigrant mother and Jewish American father, Sloan understands the importance of representation in stories and media, citing Claudia Kishi as one of her young heroines. Sloan attended the University of Texas at Austin, concentrating on WWII history and English. When she’s not writing, Sloan is an artist and professional photographer, spending the last decade shooting weddings for a living. Though she’s not a gossip in real life, she loves to keep up with celebrity dirt; her debut novel, The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes, was borne from that interest. She currently lives in Austin, with her husband and two cats, in a house with a rolling library ladder.