Hidden Gem

Hidden Gem  - India Lee Of all the books I've read in recent note about teens working within stardom and juggling their normal lives with their famous ones, "Hidden Gem" by India Lee impressed me the most, not only for its identifiable leading character, but for its realistic handling of media issues alongside teenage struggles with identity. It's a fluid read and intriguing, though it revisits some common threads that can be found in YA literature, but it's familiarity is sweet, while standing firmly on its own. The true surprise comes in the directions that Lee chooses to take with it, and if it's any indication what this first book in an ongoing series has offered on the table, it should be quite a fun ride for readers from here on out.16-year old Gemma Hunter is a shy teenager whose alternate identity is the confident and up-and-coming superstar Queen Bee, already famous overseas in Europe, Australia and Asia. Gemma's kept her true identity under wraps from her work as the international singer, but as Gemma starts gaining fame in her native country of the U.S., the need for Gemma to live life as a normal teenager becomes a concern for her parents, so she's sent to live with her aunt and attend public high school (as opposed to homeschooling) for the first time, alongside her brother Gavin.At her high school, Gemma's quickly accepted socially into a group led by the dynamic Madison, and the experience is everything that Gemma's hoped high school life would be and more. But things become complicated not only when Gemma's love interest turns out to be Madison's boyfriend (who can't seem to stay away from Gemma), but also when international teen hearthrob Tyler Chase announces having a crush on Queen Bee. It becomes a struggle for Gemma to keep her private life afloat as well as keep her identity as Queen Bee a secret. I think teens would find it easy to identify with Gemma because of her struggles to fit in as well as her attempts to follow her heart in the blend of her relationships, both romantic and not. The conflicts are dynamic and realistic, and Gemma is a conscious character - aware of her problems and situations, as well as showing concern for the people around her. That makes her easier to identify with and far less irritating than many YA teen protagonists. Not to mention the presence and support of her family and friends is realistic and welcomed in terms of helping Gemma to realize and overcome her setbacks in some measures.An interesting inclusion in the progressive storyline is where Lee includes snippets of media that play into the life and perceptions of Queen Bee. I liked this because it not only worked in a contemporary scope, but also provided a realistic portrayal of what a celebrity teen faces in the heart of stardom - and highlighted some of the conflicts that much more effectively. There were parts of the text where I was worried the designer-brand dropping would be overwhelming for the work, but surprisingly, it flows rather well and doesn't hamper the text at all.There are portrayals of teen drinking and intimacy in this work to be mindful of, but I found it far less overbearing or out of context than other novels in comparison, for both the age range of the characters as well as the context of the story told within. Overall, I think "Hidden Gem" was a good read, and one I would recommend to those who enjoy teen stories involving teen celebrity and the struggle to be accepted for who one truly is.Overall score: 4/5