Monday, 10 October 2016

Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame

Author: Mara Wilson
Genre: Memoir
Type: Paperback
Pages: 272
Source: Penguin Random House Canada
Publisher: Penguin Books Canada
First Published: September 13, 2016
First Line: "A few years ago, I found a video of myself on YouTube."

Book Description from GoodReadsFor readers of Lena Dunham, Allie Brosh and Roxane Gay, this funny, poignant, daringly honest collection of personal essays introduces Mara Wilson—the former child actress best known for her starring roles in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire—as a brilliant new chronicler of the experience that is growing up young and female.

Mara Wilson has always felt a little young and a little out of place: as the only child on a film set full of adults, the first daughter in a house full of boys, the sole clinically depressed member of the cheerleading squad, a valley girl in New York and a neurotic in California, and one of the few former child actors who has never been in jail or rehab. Tackling everything from how she first learned about sex on the set of Melrose Place, to losing her mother at a young age, to getting her first kiss (or was it kisses?) on a celebrity canoe trip, to not being “cute” enough to make it in Hollywood, these essays tell the story of one young woman’s journey from accidental fame to relative (but happy) obscurity. But they also illuminate a universal struggle: learning to accept yourself, and figuring out who you are and where you belong. Exquisitely crafted, revelatory, and full of the crack comic timing that has made Mara Wilson a sought-after live storyteller and Twitter star, Where Am I Now? introduces a witty, perceptive, and refreshingly candid new literary voice.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

My Review: I wouldn't say that I'm a huge fan of Mara Wilson's.  I've only ever seen her in one movie that I can remember (the mega-hit Mrs Doubtfire with Robin Williams) and I've read many of her humorous Tweets but that's about all I knew about this actor who used to be the wee mite with the adorable lisp.

Going in I was expecting the book to be fairly humorous and give an insider's look into the life of a child actor.  Fairly standard fare with a former child star author.  You know, the usual pitfalls of The Business for a child, a few behind-the-scenes snippets (I personally hoped there'd be a bit on Robin William's) and, of course, her family life.  And yes, all of these things are in the book but overall it's much more of a coming of age book featuring Wilson's struggle with the death of her mother, her teen years as a student and actor, her personal struggles with mental illness and ultimately finding who she really is.

This is a wee book but Wilson packs quite a bit into its pages.  While I found different aspects of the book compelling I can't say that I was captivated throughout.  It is a hodgepodge of her life experiences written in an essay-like format.  This gives readers a glimpse into her life by focusing on different aspects but also made the book feel rather choppy.  I enjoyed learning about behind-the-scenes aspect of Hollywood, her desire to be seen as more than just the actress who had played Matilda but it was her struggles with anxiety and OCD that were truly impressive, raw and eye-opening for me.  I also loved her tribute to Robin Williams ('Writing Robin') which I found to be heart felt. That said, her essays about her struggles as an adult actor and her personal life I found much less compelling.

Wilson has written an honest, no holds barred look into her life.  While she can have a fairly, and admittedly, bitter tone at times (her name means 'bitter' after all) I applaud her for not being afraid to be vulnerable to her readers as she reveals her fears and struggles.  She's a strong young woman who can be quite witty and sarcastic but unfortunately her humour was much less part of the book than I was expecting (I do so love some well written 'sarc' and dry humour). 

Overall, this is a good book if you'd like insight into where this former child actor is now in her life.  It's a heart-felt and honest commentary on her life as a child actor and now as a young woman.  She's honest with her struggles and you can't help but respect her fighting spirit. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Penguin Books Canada for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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