Starbucks Nation
Chris Ver Wiel
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Buy *Starbucks Nation* by Chris Ver Wielonline

Starbucks Nation
Chris Ver Wiel
Arcade Publishing
256 pages
May 2008
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Morgan Beale has everything going for him: he’s a worldwide pop icon; he has just been signed to write the screenplay for Hollywood’s next blockbuster hit, The Chihuahua in the Blue Prada Bag; and he’s married to Hunter, one of the hottest young actresses around.

However, Morgan Beale has a problem: he’s miserable—perpetually, hilariously, suicidally miserable. He is sick to death of his mythic pop-culture status (all deriving from a short scene in a movie in which he throws a previously masturbated-in glove through his ex-girlfriend’s car windshield); he is sick of Hunter, of the Chihuahua, and of the blue Prada bag to boot. Most of all, however, he is sick of himself and what he perceives that he has become: a sellout to the soulless movie-making behemoth that is Hollywood.

In a half-hearted attempt to deal with the situation, Beale avoids writing and spends his time sprinting gracelessly towards alcoholism. That is, until early one morning when Beale heads to Starbucks for his morning four-shot, non-fat latte with regular foam and finds himself flung headlong into a through-the-looking-glass scenario of talking dogs, flagship Starbucks stores, On Star mechanics, and commando elf anthropologists. In this weird fantasy land, Beale discovers that he is in an unfolding storyline that he not only takes part in but controls. He realizes that, in the midst of all the craziness, he has a golden opportunity—to change what he has hated about his life and to make everything right.

Starbucks Nation Nation is a delightfully vicious skewering of everything Hollywood and commercial. Through Morgan Beale, Ver Wiel mercilessly satirizes it all—inane “news” programs, cell phones, technology addicted twenty-somethings, reality show contestants, good-looking celebrity actors and actresses without two grains of talent to rub together; blood-sucking movie producers, and the paparazzi (brilliantly referred to as the “stalkarazzi”). He even takes on critics: “Criticism used to be an art form, like art itself,” Beale ponders. “Now, it’s just a mean kid with a blog. Critics hover only one step above the paparazzi.” Ouch.

Morgan Beale is a gem of a character. He’s negative, he’s aggressive, he’s sometimes downright vicious, but his vulnerability and his obsession with the mistakes of his past are appealing and all too recognizable. When the book ends with a surprising and sweetly romantic flourish, readers will be only too happy to see Beale smile.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michelle Kerns, 2008

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