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‘Audrey, Wait!’ by Robin Benway

When teens fantasize about fame, they often think of the attention, the money, the glamour. But what if that fame happens by accident? And what if it isn’t fame so much as notoriety?

That’s Audrey Cuttler’s predicament in this lively debut novel from Robin Benway. “Audrey, Wait!” is both the title of the book and the last thing Audrey’s boyfriend, Evan, said to her after she ended their relationship. And it’s the title of the song he wrote in the painful hours afterward -- a song that climbs from college radio obscurity to Billboard’s top spot and, in the process, wreaks havoc on her life.

Audrey had been a fairly normal high school junior. She was neither popular nor unpopular, neither a good student nor bad. Her main interest: music. Her main fear: the PSATs. Then “the Song” happened. Suddenly, her phone is ringing with interview requests. Her yearbook photo begins appearing in magazines. Strangers are recognizing her on the street.

Audrey is the subject of bathroom graffiti, Internet message boards, cellphone hackers, MTV discussions and paparazzi stakeouts, all of which are enough to make her stalk “upstairs to my room, where I slammed my bedroom door two times in a row just because it felt good.”

Anyone who’s felt the slightest smidgen of sympathy for Britney Spears will enjoy this humorous, energetic and intelligent coming-of-age story as it examines fame’s underbelly through its unwilling heroine. Published in this unprecedented age of obsession with celebrity, “Audrey, Wait!” is both timely and thought provoking, shedding light on fame as a victimizer.

Strong as that lesson is, it’s conveyed subtly because the writing is so quick-witted and fast-paced. The story also is believable on an emotional level, something that could have been difficult to pull off considering the origins of Audrey’s distress. When Evan calls her for the first time in the months since their breakup, for example, he apologizes by saying, “We’ve been on tour in Japan.” Audrey’s reply: “I’ve been on tour in hell.”

Told from Audrey’s point of view, the book, like the teens it’s targeting, is quite chatty -- trendy, even. The 30-year-old author, who hails from Laguna Hills and now lives in Santa Monica, has a great feel for dialogue, and she uses it liberally.

Benway also has an ear for au courant and youthful lingo, which works now but may come back to haunt her; some of the phraseology -- e.g., “not so much” -- is so of the moment that it could date “Audrey, Wait!” more quickly than the book’s engaging subject matter and other charms would warrant. *

susan.carpenter@latimes.comSusan Carpenter writes The Times’ weekly Throttle Jockey column for Highway 1.

Audrey, Wait!

A Young Adult Novel

Robin Benway

Razorbill/Penguin: 314 pp., $16.99


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