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  • Every Little Piece of Me
  • Author: Amy Jones
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
  • Pages: 400

It took me about 200 pages into Amy Jones’s Every Little Piece of Me to pinpoint the particular feeling that reading it was conjuring up in me. I’d been overcome by a queasiness, a kind of edgy malaise that felt like the beginning of bad mood – particularly bizarre given that this was a book that made me laugh (albeit a bit grimly) every dozen pages or so.

Author Amy Jones.

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And then, on page 245, I realized what it was: It was the same sick nerviness that had gripped me in the height of my Perez Hilton phase, a decade or so ago, when I’d refresh those snarky, mean-spirited, clapping-at-celebrity-car-crashes pink pages obsessively. The page that inspired the revelation features an article from “Reality Check,” a fictional gossip website that shows up frequently in Jones’s novel about a reality-television star. The site is a perfect parody of the genre that Perez helped birth, down to the unique mixture of contempt and familiarity that marks the genre’s coverage of the celebrities it simultaneously skewers and obsesses over.

There’s a reason, of course, that I stopped reading Perez et al. all those years ago, and I’d wager it’s the same discomfort with that particular breed of celebrity culture that spurred Jones to write this book. Every Little Piece of Me, should the title not give it away, is about what it’s like to be famous in 2019, and the effect our 24/7, all-access, zero-decency, scavenger mentality has on two young women. The first is the aforementioned reality star, Ava Hart, who’s grown up on Home Is Where the Hart Is, a Keeping Up With The Kardashians-meets-every-show-on-TLC mashup about two washed up actors who start a B&B in Nova Scotia. The second is Mags Kovach, the lead singer in next-big-thing indie band Align Above, experiencing a dizzying cocktail of sudden success mixed with the sudden death of her husband, also the band’s bass player.

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The two main characters actually don’t meet properly until the last, say, eighth of the book, although their narratives bump up against each other several times: Ava is groped by an older show producer in a bar where Mags just happens to be singing; Mags sits by her dying husband’s bedside while Ava is recovering from being assaulted by her out-of-control younger sister in a room across the hallway. While it’s deftly done, this narrative-by-sliding-doors does lead to a kind of build up for what will happen when the two finally do meet. I’ll not the spoil the ending, but their eventual “teaming up,” as it were, against the machine that is chewing them up is a bit too tidy, with a bit too much overly explicative dialogue such as, “We’re public property. People think our stories belong to them.”

That dialogue, by the way, is a symptom of this novel’s primary weakness – readers have seen this story before. Celebrities since Marilyn Monroe have been complaining about feeling like, well, the public wants every little piece of them, to devour before they move on the next victim. Jones does a brilliantly specific, diabolically on-the-nose job of updating that idea for 2019, but at the end of all the bang-on satire, she isn’t really saying anything new about fame. Sure, she establishes its toxicity through painstaking details about the way it erodes the psyches of these women, and the picture she paints of fans, media and trolls are similar in their scathing bite. She’s just bringing the references up to date (complete with fictionalized comments sections read like real life) and lacquering it all in a Canadian-coloured varnish by setting her action mostly in Halifax, Toronto and rural Nova Scotia. (And again, does a fantastic job of getting details for her caricatures bang on – of course someone such as Mags would live on Ossington.)

All that said, Every Little Piece of Me is like Perez Hilton in one other, very important way: It’s addictive. Jones creates two compelling, complicated female characters in Ava and Mags, and keeps the narrative zipping along with clear, concise prose and a knack for memorable episodes (a scene where thousands of lobsters are set free on the Halifax waterfront is a particular stand out). These clear talents are why I can’t wait to see what else she writes. Next time, though, I hope she picks a subject matter that isn’t so tired it’s already in re-runs.

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