Pulitzer finalist Theresa Rebeck's debut novel, Three Girls and Their Brother, is a well-written satire about a set of siblings who become celebrities overnight and whose lives become instant fodder for the entertainment tabloids. The three girls are Daria (age 18), Polly (age 17), and youngest sister Amelia (age 14). They, along with their brother Phillip (age 15) and their ex-beauty-contestant mother, find themselves at the center of celebrity-dom when the New Yorker decides to do a photo piece on the three girls, whose beauty soon becomes the talk of the town. The fact that the girls are the granddaughters of the famous literary critic Leo Heller is what ultimately helps them get all this attention.
The book is narrated in four parts, each sibling taking their turn. Daria and Polly are obviously asking for this newfound celebrity and are quite excited to become models. Amelia, on the other hand, wants a more normal life away from the spotlight and is quite anxious to return to school. She's the perfect student and enjoys her classes but finds that once they become famous, her life becomes one big mess, with no privacy whatsoever. Being a teenager celebrity is not what it’s cracked up to be.
Things could have stayed quiet with just the one photo shoot, but unfortunately another celebrity sees this as an opportunity for publicity. Rex Wentworth (not his real name), a popular and famous actor, invites the girls for drinks (does he realize Amelia is underage?) and meets them along with their mother and Rex’s agent, Maureen (a large and almost frightening woman who claims she's the great granddaughter of Franz Kafka). Phillip shows up for this outing at Amelia's insistence but against their mother's wishes, and after being served drinks, Rex comes on to Amelia (he's old enough to be her father). Amelia does the unthinkable at this point, frustrated because he will not stop his overtures, and bites him. It doesn’t help that they already angered his agent Maureen during a previous meeting (thanks to Phillip).
Phillip’s narration starts off the first section of the novel, and it ends when he is taken away from the girls to live with their father and his second wife, so that he won’t get in the way of the girls' fame and brand-new modeling career. The girls are given some excuse for the need to move him away from them, but it is later apparent why he is sent away. The next two sections continue the story but from the viewpoints of the other siblings, starting with Amelia. Each section picks up exactly where the previous narrator has left off.
With each new narration, the reader gets a different perspective on what really happened. With Amelia and Phillip’s accounts, we learn that Phillip is loyal to and protective of Amelia, and it shows in his narrative. Daria and Polly are painted as the evil sisters, but once the reader reaches their narrations, their motivations are quite different from what we have learned about them from Amelia and Phillip.
The story of the three girls continues as Amelia is asked to try out for an off-Broadway play, which upon reading she thinks is dreadful. But soon she discovers she's got the acting bug and announces she will peruse this new interest, while everyone around her thinks she’s just plain awful. A model who wants to become an actress? How clichéd is that? All the while, things get out of hand with the media, so people around them are constantly doing damage control. (A stint on Regis and Kelly is classic).
Their mother comes across as the bad person in this story. She's the one that pushes for the fame and fortune, living vicariously through her daughters and doing what she can to help their careers along, even if it means that her only son needs to be pushed to the side for a while. The book ends with a rather over-the-top scene that leads me to believe this book would make a great movie script, with a lot of laughs and a lot of high drama antics.
Overall, while I found this book well written, I’m not sure whether I liked it or not. Keeping in mind this is a satire helps, and I have to admit that it IS a hard book to put down. The one thing after another keeps the story from going stale; it is never boring. There's a lot of action, but at the same time there is some good psychological drama going on, although it was not as large a part of the storyline as I'd hoped for. This is NOT a book that takes itself seriously, although the way the novel ends will make one think twice. It all reads like a movie script, but many in the industry will agree that it's spot on.