Writing this review kills me in a way because I am a HUGE "90210" and Jennie Garth fan, but I was sadly unimpressed with this book and feel compelled to make potential readers aware. I understand the courage it takes to tell your story, and I commend Jennie for putting herself out there, but unfortunately this memoir was haphazardly put together, and as a result, the reader suffers. I actually found myself wondering why co-writer Emily Heckman failed to put this story into a cohesive narrative by the time I got to chapter four. As the assumed professional writer, she is the one I hold most responsible.
As previous reviewers have mentioned, there are basic and jarring fact checking errors regarding "90210" that I can't find any excuse for. When you know that your readers are largely huge fans of the show, getting the high school name wrong (repeatedly referring to it as "Beverly High School" instead of "West Beverly") and claiming that Kelly Taylor was in high school at the end of season 7 ("the gang" graduates college in this season's finale) makes the story surrounding her experiences sound ridiculous. She mentions that it was hard playing an "angsty teen" while she was pregnant, and I suppose this would be hard except that it didn't happen- the Kelly character was already 22 by this point. She also references Luke joining the show in the summer of 1991 when he actually began his run on "90210" in season 1, episode 2.
Putting hiccups on "90210" trivia aside, the overall content of this story leaves something to be desired. On the "90210," section, Jennie talks at length about the decor and color of her dressing room. Sadly, that's also the only new information she provides about the show. Other "behind the scenes" stories have all been told countless times: the jet ski accident, the binaca incident, shooting in gritty Van Nuys, her admission that she was initially rude to Tiffani (yet quizzically ommitting any direct mention of their subsequent fall-out), the "red dress controversy," her brush with agoraphobia... if you've followed the show at all, you've heard this all before. And if you haven't followed the show, I would imagine it might be hard to follow her recollections of the show since they include plenty of vagueness and innuendo. For instance, she refers to Shannen at one point as "one girl who was wearing black." Just say "Shannen." It's been 20 years.
I believe Jennie is someone with a sweet spirit, and my favorite part of the book is about her childhood, growing up on a farm in Illinois which she successfully describes as an idyllic upbringing. After that, the timeline takes a nose-dive, jumping around in chronological order, and becoming very fuzzy on the details. I could read one chapter fifty times and still not have a clear sense as to which family members moved with her to Arizona even though she cites this relocation, having to leave some family members behind, as life changing. It doesn't help that she also gets years and ages wrong, persistently comparing her time working on "90210" to life in a normal high school, implying that she and the other actors were of high school age at the time...(she and Shannen were 18 & 19 when they started working on "90210" and Jason was 21).
"90210" aside, I'm confused with how the writers and editors decided which stories would make this book. Early on, there is an entire chapter dedicated to her habit of zoning out in business meetings that makes very little sense and isn't connected to the rest of the narrative. There is another chapter about kombucha that is supposed to be funny but isn't and doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the story either. She glosses over big details (her first marriage and divorce is covered in what feels like 100 words) yet continues on for paragraphs with one analogy after another describing life in general: "putting the oxygen on yourself before helping others is what it's like raising kids" and hundreds more just like that. Novel adjectives ("badass" among others) are funny the first times they're used but lose their punches when repeated two paragraphs later. A professional editor should know to look for this kind of thing, yet these rooky mistakes are pervasive throughout the book.
I am critical of the book, but I feel compassion for Jennie and again blame co-writer Emily Heckman and the editors for schlocking this story together and pasting the actress' face on the cover. She's an actress, not a writer, and someone should've more closely monitored the final product. The chapter about her father's death is heartbreakingly personal and touching, and it's too bad this tone isn't consistent throughout.
As her father is deceased and wasn't in the public eye, I almost get the sense that she feels free to discuss him whereas she obviously holds back when referring to her co-workers and Peter. This hesitancy is certainly understandable (and I know Peter is the father of her children), but when you're asking people to shell out $25.00 to read your story, you do owe them at least their money's worth. I'm not suggesting that she should've done a racy tell-all, but the descriptions of her experiences going through divorce are filled with stock examples of being sad and depressed without much true candor or emotion. Overall, I'm left trying to figure out which type of book the writers were attempting to achieve: it's not a well-written personal account like Carole Radziwill's "What Remains;" it's not a funny book of essays or narratives ala Chelsea Handler or Tina Fey; and it's not an advice book like Jessica Alba's "The Honest Life." Instead, it teeters uneasily between the three styles, never quite hitting any of them.
For "90210" fans, I recommend "Stori Telling" by Tori Spelling as an alternative. I love Jennie, but for the typical reader "Hollywood Blonde" is truly hard to stick with, and Jennie lacks the natural sense of humor that comes so easily to Tori (to her credit though, Jennie acknowledges in the book that she isn't funny). One thing I've always noticed and admired about Jennie is that her three girls all seem to be the sweetest and most loving children imaginable so maybe a self-help book on motherhood is more up her alley. She's definitely doing something right, unfortunately though, it just isn't showcased here. However as always, I do look forward to her next project!