Estelle: Cherry Money Baby by John M. Cusick

Cherry Money Baby by John CusickCherry Money Baby by John M. Cusick ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: Candlewick
Pages: 400
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: small town, Hollywood, graduating high school
Format read: ARC borrowed from Jamie! Thanks!

Summary: Cherry is in her senior year of high school, and despite her dad’s urging to get out of the trailer park and go to college, she is just fine with staying in town, her job at the Burrito Barn, and her relationship with Lucas, the boy in the trailer next door. When celeb Ardelia Deen stops in the burrito joint and Cherry saves her from choking, a whole new world opens up with Ardelia at the helm. How will this affect her future?

Cherry Money Baby was, by far, one of the more challenging reads I’ve experienced this year. And as an adult who reads a lot of young adult books, I must say a huge huge thank you to John Cusick for keeping me on my toes throughout Cherry’s adventures.

It’s not every day you meet a character like Cherry, who lives in a trailer park and has so much potential, and is so content with staying in the same town with her dad, brother, best friend (Vi), and boyfriend (Lucas). She ignores her dad’s spiels about getting a better life, blah blah, and she curses up a storm. I kind of love it. She is not afraid to say what is on her mind. She is not afraid to say it in an un-pretty way. Sometimes I forgot she was 18.

So one day at work, a celebrity (that Cherry does not recognize) coughs on some food and Cherry comes to her rescue. Meet Ardelia Deen, who is filming a movie in town and trying to enjoy the local cuisine. Cherry doesn’t think much of what she did — even though TMZ, Twitter, and every other celeb blogger can’t get enough of her — and Ardelia pops back into her life for a night of candy guzzling (circus peanuts) in a sweet ride.

It’s a total culture clash. I wasn’t sure if Cherry and Ardelia would end up friends, but I was hoping for it. As Cherry gets more involved in Adelia’s life, it’s so obvious that money, fame, and sophistication does not equate to the perfect life or knowing right from wrong. Let’s be clear. Cherry doesn’t hang out with Ardelia because she wants to see this other side. At least, that’s not the impression I ever got. She was so chill about things and breaking out of her shell a little bit but it was never because she desired to be in Ardelia’s place. On the other hand, Cherry was kind of Ardelia’s project (she even admits to this) and so many times I pictured Gatsby showing his awesome life to Nick in The Great Gatsby – a whole “this is how you can live if you choose it because why oh why would you choose a trailer park and no college education over fancy champagne?” kind of thing.

See? I totally think all the twists and turns and commentary on society would make Cherry Money Baby an awesome pick for a book club. Cusick’s writing is really solid and smart, I loved his characters, the loyal family unit, and even though a lot is going on (a lot!) I like that there are consequences for these characters’ actions. They can’t just play around with hearts and emotions and each other and not face some kind of aftermath. Even if it sucks, and even if it’s sad.

I wonder if the ending of Cherry Money Baby would have been different if Cherry had not met Ardelia. The moments they shared together may have opened Cherry up to new experiences but I don’t think they changed her course. Even if it wasn’t what others wanted for her, even if she could have aimed higher. (But who can say what is aiming higher?)

This makes me think a lot of “the plan”. Graduation, college, career, marriage, children, death? I’ve found people are uncomfortable when others deviate from “the plan”. Cherry knew from the beginning what she wanted her life plan to be, and I really admire her sticking to her guns and making decisions that were right for her but also being courageous enough to experience life as it comes.

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12 thoughts on “Estelle: Cherry Money Baby by John M. Cusick

  1. Gaby @ Queen Ella Bee Reads says:

    I actually saw this one at BN tonight and I stopped to take a closer look because I remembered seeing you talk about it on Twitter. The dynamic of this book actually sounds really interesting. I feel like there are a lot of books/movies (especially Disney Channel ones) about a girl meeting a celebrity but it’s usually a guy and she’s usually reluctant because she hates celebrities/she hates that particular celebrity. But this one sounds like it’s about a girl who loves where/who she is instead of hating what/who she’s not. And who doesn’t love a good spin on a good plot line?

  2. Bookworm1858 says:

    This book wasn’t on my radar at all until I started seeing some reviews pop up for it-all singing its praises! I am a sucker for books involving celebrities and am curious how this experience will change Cherry’s life.

  3. Kate says:

    This sounds really good and different. Usually young adult characters are wanting to leave their hometowns. I’ll definitely have to check this one out! Great review!

  4. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle says:

    I have this one sitting on my shelf but for some reason I haven’t felt super compelled to pick it up. However, you make this book sound very appealing. I’m a bit nervous about what you mean when you said this book was one of the most challenging books you’ve read this year. But I’m interested in this heroine who lives in a trailer park but doesn’t sound like the poor girl grasping to get out of her situation. I definitely want to meet Cherry now and find out what happens for myself.

  5. Alexa Y. says:

    This book sounds AMAZING. I heard a little about it at BEA, but it’s definitely even cooler to hear something from a friend that I trust when it comes to reading choices. I’ll definitely be giving this book a whirl as soon as I get my hands on a copy!

  6. Marathon @ Paranormal Indulgence says:

    “This makes me think a lot of “the plan”. Graduation, college, career, marriage, children, death? I’ve found people are uncomfortable when others deviate from “the plan”. Cherry knew from the beginning what she wanted her life plan to be, and I really admire her sticking to her guns and making decisions that were right for her but also being courageous enough to experience life as it comes.”

    Gosh, not only does this sound like exactly what I need to read right now, but you’ve completely convinced me that I’m missing out. I’ve had the ARC of this since BEA and just haven’t wanted to read it even though I remember being curious when I picked it up. Now that I understand the feel of the story I really want to get started on it! Oh, Estelle, you!

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