Book: Cherry Money Baby by John M. Cusick, Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, September 2013
Book Info: Purchased audiobook, and received book for review from publisher. Running time: 7 hrs, 21 mins. Read by: Sarah Elmaleh. Also available in hardcover or e-book, 400 pages from Candlewick
About the book:
Cherry Kerrigan loves her simple life, her family’s tiny trailer, even working at Burrito Barn. Forget college — she’s marrying her sweetheart from next door. But here comes Ardelia Deen, a glamorous starlet who sweeps Cherry into a world of fast cars and penthouse parties. Now Cherry’s small-town life just seems so . . . small. When Ardelia drops a bomb of an offer, Cherry knows her life will change forever — no matter what she decides. John M. Cusick focuses his signature satirical wit on Hollywood royalty and the wide-eyed dreams of Small Town, U.S.A., in a novel about discovering who you are . . . and changing your mind.
(source: Brilliance Audio)
Cherry Money Baby is a book with a lot of personality. The character of Cherry Kerrigan is bold and sassy and has no filter. She’s the type of no bullshit girl you know you can trust to tell it like it is and to have fun with. She doesn’t have big ambitions but she’s practical and loyal, and prides herself on rolling the best burritos at her job at Burrito Barn. Her life changes overnight when she saves an A-list movie star from choking at Burrito Barn, and gets some notoriety of her own. Will Cherry stay true to herself or will the fifteen minutes of fame spoil her forever?
I’m a little wary when guys write female protagonists, but I have to say that I would never have guessed a guy wrote this book. The female voice is authentic; Cherry is larger than life, unapologetic, and fearless. You just never know what’s going to come out of her smart mouth. When she talks to the press after her brush with fame, and Cherry admits she didn’t think before giving Ardelia Deen the Heimlich Maneuver, manufacturers rush to print up “I Don’t Think” Cherry t-shirts.
Right away this book reminded me a little of another humorous contemporary read- Robin Benway’s Audrey, Wait! There’s not enough humor in YA in my opinion, so I was happy to read about a comic gold heroine like Cherry. Similar to Audrey, Wait, the protagonist becomes a reluctant celebrity and learns a lot about herself.
Cherry has always scraped to get by, and now that she’s friends with a generous celebrity she gets a taste of the good life, including a swanky Alfa Romeo, parties, and new job opportunities, it’s mind-blowing. The differences between the haves and have-nots are shown in Cherry’s and Ardelia’s relationship. Ardelia seems too good to be true, and you never know if she’s just slumming it with Cherry with an ulterior motive. There are several opportunities to look at class issues, from life at the trailer park, to meet and greets with Ardelia’s hoity-toity friends, as well as “celebrity.”
Another thing going on with Cherry is her ambition- what will she do after high school? Her dad wants her to do something with her life, not just marry the guy in the trailer next door. But, Cherry loves her boyfriend and wants to start their life together. When Cherry meets Ardelia, she starts to see that she might have other options and more to offer than she ever knew.
I listened to the audiobook, performed by Sarah Elmaleh, a new-to-me narrator, and in fact this seems to be her first audiobook. This audiobook just would not work if it weren’t matched with the right performer. There’s Cherry, with the larger than life personality, her family and friends in the trailer park, plus the English accented movie star Ardelia and her entourage. But Elmaleh gives an authentic voice to Cherry and infuses the supporting characters voices with personality. I had a copy of the book, but used a credit on the audiobook based on the audio sample, and I’m really glad I did. Elmaleh has a great throaty voice and nails Cherry’s deadpan humor, and eases seamlessly into Ardelia’s polished accent. This is an audiobook I’d listen to again if I needed a pick-me-up.
Cherry Money Baby is fun and entertaining, but has more going on beneath the surface. The tale got a little too convoluted for me in the third act but I couldn’t put down the book all the same. I kind of like it more as time goes by actually.
This is the first book I’ve read by author John M. Cusick, and now I’m eager to check out his other book, Girl Parts.
Cherry Money Baby is a YA Fiction Cybils nominee.