Title: The Understudy
Authors: Sophie Hannah, Claire Mackintosh, B A Paris, Holly Brown
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
How far would you go to protect your daughter?
Carolyn, Bronnie, Elise, and Kendall are bound together by one thing—their four daughters are best friends at the highly competitive Orla Flynn Academy for the Performing Arts. Last year the foursome exploded because of brutal bullying between the girls, but they’ve since forgiven each other. The mothers, however, haven’t been able to move on. When new threats surface and “accidents” begin to happen—just as a mysterious new girl enters the scene—the mothers take matters into their own hands. But they will have to risk their own secrets being exposed if they stand a chance at uncovering the truth
The Understudy is an entertaining, twisty story set in the world of teenage drama school students and their pushy parents. There’s plenty of cattiness within its pages, as we see things through the eyes of four different but often just as unlikable parents. You love to hate them, and their bratty children, as the novel continues, and more secrets come to the surface.
The book is quite unique in that it’s split into sections, which each author writes, and I loved this sense of each author taking their turn – if these sections weren’t marked you wouldn’t know they were written by different people, as they’re all very in sync with their writing, but it’s interesting to know that each auhor had their own chance to put their stamp on the story. When I have read books with multiple authors, it’s usually a collection of short stories, not when the authors all collaborate on the same story (and certainly not when it’s not two or three authors but four!), so it was a different experience for me – but as I mentioned, it all flowed together so well that you wouldn’t know you were reading the work of more than one author.
The story perfectly captures the bitchiness of teenage life as well as the way this bleeds into their mothers’ lives – some more than others. I can imagine their need to protect their daughters, but the way some of them behave is beyond what most would consider normal. Although there’s a lot of high school angst and melodrama, the story stops short of being too much by having a constant, unnerving undercurrent of people not being who they say they are. I definitely rolled my eyes at the characters on multiple occasions, but that feels intentional – as the reader, we’re not supposed to like them, just be intrigued as to what is really going on! There were also some parts which I feel you would have to suspend your disbelief for
I enjoyed this novel – it’s an easy, fun and entertaining read.
Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing a copy of this novel, on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.