The first in former Teen People entertainment editor Jen Calonita’s kicky Secrets of My Hollywood Life series, this conspiratorial, insider’s guide shakes the lid off squeaky-clean celebrity teen Kaitlin Burke’s fame — entourage, financially needy stage parents, tabloids, and all. The buoyant Roxanne Hernandez narrates, smartly collapsing the temptation to dismiss Kaitlin as just another cynical, mouthy showbiz brat. Hernandez keeps the tone bouncy, but connects the intelligent dialogue, planting nervous pauses and trembling standoffs to drive home that Kaitlin and her BFF Liz are diligent, honorable young adults.
Secrets of My Hollywood Life introduces 16-year-old Kaitlin Burke, star of the nighttime soap “Family Affair”. Overworked, sleep-deprived Kaitlin plots to peel away from 18-hour shoots and tedious press junkets. When Liz, a non-celeb, grumbles about homework, wistful Kaitlin conspires to enroll incognito at Clark Hall, Liz’s ordinary high school, for a taste of normalcy. Plans unfold: Kaitlin’s hair and makeup squad disguise her as drab, British transfer Rachel Rogers, while her agent negotiates approval from the principal’s office. Soon Kaitlin is navigating French, cafeteria lunches, and the hunky Austin Meyers. But despite her anonymity, Kaitlin still bumps up against backstabbing and drama. She learns high school and Hollywood both require resilience and courage not to blend in. She also becomes popular despite her mousy makeunder.
Voicing Kaitlin is tricky since it’s hard to feel intuitive sympathy for a gorgeous, kind, rich teen. Hernandez gets it, and animates her Kaitlin with cheery cadences shadowed by weariness, reminding us she’s no ingénue. Earthy, artsy Liz disarms with a warm, kooky chuckle, but still snaps off Kaitlin’s conniving nemesis, Sky, with an acidity that’s winning. If you’ve ever hyperventilated over photos of starlets fetching coffee in yoga pants, Secrets of My Hollywood Life provides reassurance that complications surely exist beyond latte runs. —Nita Rao