Trigger warning: the book discussed in this review contains topics of suicide, implied grooming of a minor, implied alcohol and drug abuse, stalking and harassment, physical assault, rape, and eating disorders. If you find any of these topics uncomfortable or triggering, I strongly suggest you don’t read this article any further and please don’t read this book. If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicide, the phone number to the US hotline is 1-800-273-8255 and you can find a list of all of the hotlines around the world here: https://www.suicidestop.com/call_a_hotline.html


Hey, everyone! Kim here and I’m (finally) back with another article. I was going to make some sort of “article comeback” with a life update of some sorts, but given that I haven’t done anything remotely fun this summer thanks to the ongoing pandemic, I’ve mostly been at home reading for leisure for the first time since I started college. I already know that if I don’t read now, I definitely won’t have time to in a few weeks when I go to pharmacy school (yup, ya girl’s a grad student now! Well, technically a professional student but it’s pretty much the same thing).

Last spring (April 2019 to be specific), I opened an account on Book of the Month. It’s an American monthly subscription box where you can pick up to 3 books a month, many of which haven’t been formally released yet (we’re talking like...2-3 months in advance at times) or will be released later that month. They also have a bunch of other books called “add ons” that aren’t featured books for that month or were past month selections that you can add to your box as one of your books if the main selections aren’t your cup of tea. It’s nice because you can get the books for significantly cheaper than if you went to the bookstore and bought/pre ordered a copy.

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Long story short, I pretty much forgot that I had the subscription until last month where I saw two books I genuinely thought were worth a read (and they were!) so I formally activated my subscription. For my August subscription, I chose a particular book, specifically, an early release that wasn’t going to be in libraries or bookstores until September 1st. That book is The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan. I wanted to write this review mainly because I was able to read it ahead of its release date (because let’s be real, this is the closest thing I’m getting to an ARC (advanced reading copy) of any book) and wanted to write about my thoughts and whether or not I recommend this book!

Before we dive into the actual review, I just want to say that all opinions and thoughts expressed in this book are mine and mine alone. Don’t let my opinion be the sole factor that goes into whether or not you want to read this book. There’s a handful of other reviews already on GoodReads and bookstagrammers who are reading the book as well, so my point is, do your own research before deciding to read it and if you do read it, form your own opinions about the book! :)


BASIC BOOK INFORMATION

All of this information was found on the GoodReads page for this book.

Title: The Unraveling by Cassidy Holmes
Author: Elissa R. Sloan
Page count: 448 pages (paperback edition)
Publish date: September 1st, 2020
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Synopsis:

“Cassidy Holmes isn't just a celebrity.

She is “Sassy Gloss,” the fourth member of the hottest pop group America has ever seen. Hotter than Britney dancing with a snake, hotter than Christina getting dirrty, Gloss was the pop act that everyone idolized. Fans couldn't get enough of them, their music, and the drama that followed them like moths to a flame—until the group’s sudden implosion in 2002. And at the center of it all was Sassy Cassy, the Texan with a signature smirk that had everyone falling for her.

But now she's dead. Suicide.

The world is reeling from this unexpected news, but no one is more shocked than the three remaining Glossies. Fifteen years ago, Rose, Merry, and Yumi had been the closest to Cassidy, and this loss is hitting them hard. Before the group split, they each had a special bond with Cassidy—truths they told, secrets they shared. But after years apart, each of them is wondering: what could they have done?

Told in multiple perspectives—including Cassidy herself—and different timelines, this is a behind-the-scenes look into the rise and fall of a pop icon, and a penetrating examination of the dark side of celebrity and the industry that profits from it.”

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MY THOUGHTS

There are some minor spoilers for the book (to provide context) but I tried my best to keep it as spoiler-free as possible.

First off, I’d like to point out an interesting observation I made while reading the book. The other three members of Gloss--Yumi, Rose, and Merry-- all claim she was the closest to Cassidy. This happens within the first 50 or so pages of the book as they reflect back on the memories they had with her in the present day. I found it interesting because it really goes to show--and this is definitely cliché to say--that sometimes you don’t really know a person and what goes on behind the scenes in their life. As I continued reading, I realized that all three girls felt that they were close to her because they shared personal secrets with her that the other two band members didn’t know about. However, by the end of the book, I didn’t feel that one of them was closer to her than the others, but if I had to choose one girl, I felt that Yumi was the closest to Cassidy as she was the most welcoming and open to her when she joined Gloss and had good intentions that unfortunately went awry.

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Another thing I appreciated the book for discussing and bringing light to is the treatment of women in the music industry. At the time of Gloss’ formation in the book, the girls were teenagers--barely legal teenagers at that, I believe they were 16-18 when the group was formed--and sexualized by the media. For example, Yumi was compared to a Geisha girl and Merry became known for her chest size. The nicknames given to those two girls by fans and the media were “Yummy” and “Cherry,” respectively. In addition to that, the girls were forced to be on an extremely strict diet to maintain a specific body figure (aka extremely skinny) to fit into costumes and land ad deals to further get their name out into the world.

There was constant pressure on them to be the biggest, the best, the brightest, and everyone in the world was watching their every move. There was also the pressure of staying out of trouble and not speaking up on things that might paint them or other people of power in the music industry associated with them in a bad light. Unfortunately, staying silent doesn’t work out for Cassidy (and Merry later on). Of course, all of these things aren’t something that happens in the music industry only, but since the book was centered around that specifically it’s good to note that this could happen to any woman in any setting.

As for the multiple perspectives in the book, I liked that the author did that and I just like books that provide multiple character perspectives in general. It gives more insight into each character and what their personalities are like and how they view certain events in the book. Rose, Yumi, and Merry’s perspectives take place in the present day whereas Cassidy’s took place when Gloss was still together (2000-2002). Rose is determined and goal-oriented almost to a fault where she comes off as rude and unforgiving, whereas Yumi’s more laid-back and relaxed. Merry is known to be impulsive and somewhat promiscuous while Cassidy was seen as an outcast and more subdued because she was a last-minute replacement for the original member of Gloss, Viv.

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With all of that being said, I do wish there were some things the author could’ve included more information about in the book. I felt that there was a lot of information about Cassidy and Rose’s roles in the group since Cassidy’s perspective was during her time in the band (and the perspective that we get to read about the most during the book) and what she saw and Rose was the de facto “leader” giving orders to everyone and Cassidy simply noticing that. There wasn’t much about how Yumi and Merry felt about being in Gloss. As for Merry specifically, the most we know from her time in Gloss is when there’s mentions of Merry speaking out of turn or her going off to hang out with a guy even though there’s way more to her character than just that as we find out in the present day from her own perspective. For Yumi, a lot of her time in the book was spent talking to Cassidy and trying to make her feel welcome but the only scene where she shows a little bit of how she feels about being in the group is when she finds out that the media started calling her “Tasty” and “Yummy” (a deliberate mispronunciation of her name) after a photoshoot they’ve done where she was compared to a Geisha girl and that was pretty much the end of it.

Another thing that I wish the author included a little bit more about is Rose’s struggle with drug and alcohol abuse because it’s not like it should be seen as a lesser issue compared to the other struggles the other girls went through during and after their time in Gloss. It was implied towards the beginning of the book that she was recovering from alcoholism as she’s in a hotel room and telling herself she didn’t need alcohol and that was probably the end of it. It’s also implied that she developed a drug addiction after suffering an accident during her time in Gloss that was misdiagnosed as the doctor prescribed her Vicodin for her pain and sent her on her way, but again, that’s the most it’s mentioned since it was towards the end of the book. I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt since this was most likely something that Rose went through and recovered from in the 15-year time gap between Gloss’ split and Cassidy’s death, but it was sort of weird that it was just thrown in there and mentioned probably about twice in the 400+ page book.


FINAL VERDICT

These topics, despite how sensitive they are, is what makes the characters (in my opinion) real. It makes us remember that celebrities, despite their glitz and glamor and lavish lifestyles and success, are still real people. They struggle with a lot of things they don’t share with their fans and the world because of the idea that every popular singer/band/artists, influencer, YouTuber, celebrity, etc. lives the perfect life out in LA or some other large city with a lot of money and power. This book brings to light some of the issues that celebrities go through, specifically women in the industry. Even though the main events took place in the early 2000s, they’re still unfortunately issues not only in the entertainment industry but just in the world in general and I’m glad that the author brought these still very prevalent issues to light. The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes was a book that kept me up all night reading and I hope if you read this book that you feel the same way I did.

Final rating: 4.5/5 stars


So that’s the end of this article! If you enjoyed it, be sure to heart it or leave a reaction to let me know you did and possibly want more in the future! I probably won’t do a book review for every book I read (at the time of writing this I’m currently on my 13th book this summer/5th book this month), I know Book of the Month strikes deals with authors to have them release their books a month or two early through their subscription box so I may just do book reviews on the early releases if it interests me enough to get them.

As you’ve also probably noticed, this ends my article “drought” I guess? This is the first article I’ve actually finished and seen through to the end in over a year that hasn’t been a #WTR announcement for our joint account. I have a crap ton of articles that I started writing but just never finished them so maybe one day I’ll muster up the time and motivation to complete and publish them all. I’ll probably finish my life update article though since that was something that’s been a long time coming.

I start grad school in about 2 weeks, so my time on WHI is going to be extremely limited. I’ll try my best to reheart and post when I can and I suppose it might be easier since I have an almost entirely online semester again (I have to be in person maybe like 5 times at most during the entire semester for exams and lab) but we’ll see what happens.

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Until next time,
~Kim (@music_infinity)


Cover image credit: @/bookcasebeauty on Instagram

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