Star Island

Carl Hiaasen is a Floridian author and I always see his novels in the local interest area of Florida bookshops, such as Books & Books in Key West. He sets his novels in Florida, and the Star Island in the title refers to the wealthy oval-shaped island located west of Miami Beach in Biscayne Bay, and is home to many celebrities.

This novel tells the story of Cheryl Bunterman, whose stage name is Cherry Pye. She is a talentless starlet in her early twenties, in and out of rehab and always in the tabloids. All too often she is incapacitated by overdosing, drunkenness and suddenly going AWOL, so her agent devised a scheme whereby a lookalike would take her place whenever she was otherwise wasted yet needed to make public appearances. Cherry doppelgänger Ann DeLusia thus is always on call to fill in at the last minute.

Hiaasen filled his novel with shallow characters (agents, parents, photographers and bodyguards) and introduced a mangrove-dwelling wildman who was none other than a former governor of Florida, and a cyborg bodyguard who was half man, half weed whacker. “Chemo” enjoyed taking chunks of flesh out of people if they annoyed him.

Cherry Pye tries to kick-start her career by recording a new album and going on tour. Meanwhile, her handlers spend their time making sure she shows up for lip-synching and dance lessons (because she is, after all, talentless, and does not actually sing on her own album). When she goes AWOL her handlers try to track her down and get her back to functional lucidity.

Although we had been introduced to the characters and knew who they were by their frequent appearances throughout the entire story, Hiaasen always referred to them by their full names, even when they had multiple names (like Tanner Dane Keefe) or were major figures in every chapter (like Cherry’s mother, who was always referred to as Janet Bunterman). Hiaasen never referred simply to “Tanner”, “Keefe”, “Janet” or “Ms Bunterman”. I found the full nomenclature to be annoying. Did he expect the reader to have no attention span? I felt that Hiaasen was talking down to the reader by his repetitious character naming.

The action was not exciting, as what I would have expected for South Beach club life–Cherry is once again rushed to emergency or she suddenly gets an enormous neck tattoo–and Ann has to make her way to an event or find a henna artist who can act fast. By the time I was halfway through the book I no longer cared about the plot or the characters. When I picked up the book after a break in reading, fortunately I was able to recall what I had read earlier, so Hiaasen did write a seamless story where I didn’t need to read the last few pages of the previous chapter to get back into it. The dialogue flowed rapidly as well as the descriptive pages which had solid text and minimal quotations. I might give Hiaasen another shot, especially if I am planning a trip to Florida.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *