NPR's Best Books of 2017. NPR's lists have become one of my favorite sources of book ideas because they have so many different options--really whatever genre I'm in the mood for. Now, I dislike politics intensely, so reading about a fictional election reminiscent of this past Presidential election did not sound appealing. Fortunately, Amanda Wakes Up was both funny and thoughtful. In some ways it felt like a typical "chick-lit" [I'm sorry, I hate this term, but it seems to fit here] summer beach read with Amanda enjoying the fun, wish fulfillment of makeovers, new clothes, and a dream job. But Amanda is also thoughtful and conflicted as she attempts to be true to her journalistic roots
Amanda is a small-time reporter for a local station in New York City when she gets a break and is the first on scene to a hostage situation with a gunman. Even in this scene Camerota brings up the moral issue of excitedly diving after a story when people are suffering and dying only hundreds of feet away. But the story works for Amanda, and she's invited to meet with Benji Diggs, a young media mogul known for his ingenuity and originality when creating television. Diggs saw Amanda during the hostage situation, and he wants to hire her for his new 24-hour news channel. The idea is that the channel will separate itself from CNN, Fox, and MSNBC by showing both sides of every issue.
Amanda is beyond thrilled, and she is even more thrilled when she is offered an even more prestigious position on the Morning Show because she has better chemistry with the co-anchor, Rob. The job is immediately challenging, with early hours and virtually no time to do any research on the stories they cover each morning. The show jumps between covering issues such as abortion and climate change to having Amanda model the latest pajamas. The focus is always on showing "both sides."
In a turn that is eerily reminiscent, the Presidential election is just starting to heat up. The frontrunners are the Democratic female Senator and former Hollywood actor Victor Fluke. It turns out that Fluke is a ratings bonanza. The more they have him on the show, the better their ratings are, so they book him as often as possible. The idea of "both sides" continues, but ends up adding legitimacy to any crazy thing Fluke says. It should be noted here, too, that Camerota says she wrote this novel well before the 2016 election. She has followed Presidential elections in the past, and figured what 2016 might turn into, but she insists she did not have a crystal ball to see into the future.
Amanda is a bundle of contradictions as she gets used to her fast-paced job, trying to placate her boyfriend, mother, and her own morals by contradicting Fluke when he talks crazy, but also not making him so mad he won't come back on the show. It's something of an inside look into the business of television when Amanda tries to please her opinionated boss and deal with the online trolls that attack anything she does. In the end, the book ends better than reality. We don't find out the results of the election, but Amanda is able to persevere and succeed in a very happy, romantic fiction kind of way.
I really liked this book. Not only was it consistently interesting, funny, and entertaining, but I had strong reactions to the story throughout the novel. I hated Amanda's cavalier attitude toward tragedy while hunting a story in the beginning. Then, as someone who hates attention, I was truly anxious over Amanda's first couple of days on air. It was a fascinating glimpse into the industry, and it felt very real, but it would also be my personal nightmare. Not only are people critically appraising everything about you, but then they throw you on national television for three hours with nothing to say. It also says some important things about the media, the power they have to shape public opinion, and where they have gone wrong. I also loved the characters in this book. They were both memorable and felt realistic. I would definitely recommend this one.