Stohl, Margaret. Royce Rolls. Los Angeles: Freeform, 2017. Print.
Last summer, I visited Los Angeles with my sister.
It was a different world.
Consistently fantastic weather, terrible traffic, expensive boutiques, glitzy people—it was foreign, yes, but also exciting. By the end of my visit, I truly loved LA.
So, when I began Margaret Stohl’s Royce Rolls—a novel set mainly in sunny Los Angeles—I was hoping to love it in the same way.
The novel follows the misadventures of seventeen-year-old Bentley Royce. Bentley is a member of the famous (or, more accurately, infamous) Royce family, a Kardashian-esque clan who has starred in their own reality show (Rolling with the Royces) for five seasons. Though she and her younger brother, Maybach, are familiar fixtures on the show, the true stars are Bentley’s sexpot sister, Porsche, and “momager”, Mercedes. Although Bentley yearns to go to college, she knows this isn’t a possibility. Reality stardom is all her family has ever known.
Due to crumbling ratings, the Royces are unsure that they will receive a greenlight for season six. While Bentley brainstorms various plotlines to save her family’s show, it is Porsche who comes up with the winning idea: the sixth season will be built around her faux engagement and wedding. After a series of auditions, the Royces are introduced to Porsche’s “fiancé”: Whitey, the son of a famous record producer. As the wedding preparations begin and chaos predictably ensues, Bentley discovers shocking information about her fake future brother-in-law. Will the wedding move forward as planned? Will the Royces become a laughing stock? Will Bentley work up the courage to pursue her collegiate dreams? And why does the novel begin with a news report detailing the fiery deaths of Whitey and Bentley Royce?
The Royces and those around them—agents, studio heads, makeup artists, cameramen, etc.—are hilariously over-the-top. Bread and carbs are the enemy, a trendy cycling class is a form of salvation, pricey brands and important names are continuously dropped, and the term “big girl” is a vicious slur. Perhaps one of the funniest aspects of the book are the footnotes littered throughout the pages. These are pieces of editing advice from Dirk, a “man-bunned” administrative assistant. Dirk’s obliviousness shines in these footnotes, and they provide some needed comic relief.
Although I appreciated the humor and social commentary found in Royce Rolls, I also found the book to be scattered and unorganized. Bentley’s characteristics and motivations are all over the place; I felt like I ended the book not knowing her at all. In one part of Royce Rolls, for example, she watches somewhat unfazed as a duck falls to its death, while later in the book she is revealed to have a soft spot for animals. She even adopts two kittens who are mentioned once, then forgotten. Although she yearns to attend college and spends her free time at a library, very little is mentioned about her time at school or the grades she earns. I was irked, too, that none of the characters were particularly likable. Though Bentley’s desire to escape the spotlight is pitiable, her actions at the end of the book are rash and self-centered. And the connection between Bentley and her love interest felt strange and forced, almost laughable.
My issues with the book aside, the satire alone would make Royce Rolls worth teaching. The book pokes fun at all types of media: reality television, celebrity blogs, entertainment talk shows, and the paparazzi. The character of Bentley Royce presents a unique opportunity to discuss our society’s current view of fame—why are so many people famous for seemingly doing nothing? Why are we more interested in a celebrity’s bad behavior than their charitable acts or redeeming qualities? Can we trust reality television shows and social media? All of this could lead to a particularly timely discussion about the validity of media, whether it be an article about a celebrity’s foray into rehab or a serious news story.