Johnny Silver is the world's soon-to-be biggest rock star, but on the eve of his debut concert in Los Angeles, he mysteriously disappears, causing global pandemonium. His friend Taj tries to discover the truth about his disappearance, which leads her to TAP.com and its shadowy founder, Sutton Werner, who throws the wildest parties in Bel-Air.
TAP started out innocently enough, as a website that dishes the dirt on the kids of Sunset Boulevard and beyond. But it has become something more. Membership is a privilege with responsibilities and consequences.
At Sutton's parties, anything goes, especially in the legendary backroom rituals nicknamed The Angels Practice. Rumors abound of a special drink handed out at the parties that tap into otherworldly sensations.
One night Taj meets Nick, a Westside preppie who doesn't buy into the TAP mayhem, especially since his kid sister never came home from attending one of its blow-out bashes. Slowly the two of them are drawn to TAP and to each other. But Taj just might know more than she's letting on....
Are you ready for the darker side of Tinsel-town's brightest lights?
De la Cruz (the Au Pairs series) invents a dark world against an L.A. backdrop in this novel, giving readers plenty to puzzle over and ponder. A fictional social networking Web site called TAP.com lies at the center of this story about a missing rock star, the girl who loved him, and rich boy Nick, who is learning to see beneath the surface. Johnny Silver, Taj's boyfriend and "the kind of star that spoke for a generation," literally vanishes from the stage, and he is not alone. Nick's sister goes missing, and soon, so does his best friend. Through Taj's and Nick's alternating perspectives, readers not only watch the mismatched pair fall for each other, they learn TAP's secrets, from the "otherworldly" punch served at the site's sponsored parties, to the strange ritual that happens in the parties' secret rooms. ("TAP--The Angels' Practice... the website was only the beginning. It was also a movement, a phenomenon, and a drug," says Taj.) Nick suspects the Web site is connected to the disappearances. Memorable secondary characters people the novel, such as Taj's drag queen uncle, Mama Fay, and Sutton, Johnny's teen manager with "the smile of the devil." But the story wraps up before readers get enough of them. Teens may have trouble tracking all the pieces of the mystery, but will compulsively turn the pages--and be haunted by the story's provocative themes, such as the underbelly of social networking sites, and why "sixty percent of America's teenagers believe they will become famous." Ages 14-up. (Mar.)
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Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
October 05, 2008
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Excerpt from Angels on Sunset Boulevard by Melissa de la Cruz
After Saturday night at the In-N-Out and a steady parade of drunken rockers, skater kids, Chicano families, frat boys, Beverly Hills princesses, East L.A. gangbangers, Hollywood hippies, artists, and stoners walked through the swinging glass doors, a microcosm of Los Angeles itself.
Nick Huntington sat alone in the front booth, listlessly watching the local citizenry and unconsciously eavesdropping on two hyperactive film types -- boneheads, in his humble opinion -- honing a movie pitch at the next table, dreams of Hollywood the backbone of every conversation within a ten-mile radius of the studios.
He was holding a fry in midair when he spotted the boy. Nick froze, and the fry dangled on his mouth, the ketchup dripping from the tip and burning the edge of his tongue.
The boy was shaking visibly, his entire body vibrating from an uncontrollable compulsion -- knees knocking against each other, teeth chattering, head twitching from side to side. His long hair was matted against his forehead and the back of his neck, and his jeans were torn and holey. After midnight at the In-N-Out Burger on the corner of Orange Drive and Sunset Boulevard and no one paid much attention as he shuffled up to the front of the line, dirt-black fingers trembling as they dug into his pants pockets for grimy dollar bills and change.
"The number one," he mumbled, so softly that the cashier had to repeat it. A flat chemical scent emanated from his pores as if he were sweating aluminum.
"Number one?" she asked again helpfully, breathing through her mouth so she wouldn't smell him but trying not to show it -- they got all kinds there.
The boy nodded. His hair was so dirty it looked brown, except for the roots, which were startlingly, shockingly silver, like a halo. He was so skinny his wrist bones protruded from his skin, poking out painfully. His skin was sallow, a drained, sickly, yellow color -- junkie yellow -- but otherwise it was clear, free of the acne scars and hollowed craters that typically accompanied a drug-induced complexion. He scratched at his three-day-old stubble, then picked at a cuticle on his thumb, watching as the cashier punched in his order.
He accepted his food and turned to look for a seat.
His eyes met Nick's, and a chill went down Nick's spine. It was like looking into the eyes of a ghost. Nick became conscious that his jaw was hanging open and made a deliberate effort to close it. He never did eat that french fry. He'd lost his appetite.
"Aren't you Johnny Silver?" he finally asked.
Nick couldn't believe it. Johnny Silver was supposed to be onstage at the Hollywood Bowl at that very moment, in a comeback concert that was already being heralded as the most important music event of the year -- if not the decade, if not the century.
Yet there he was, standing right in front of him. Johnny Silver, his violet eyes boring into Nick's skull, that otherworldly masculine beauty -- like David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust phase -- haughty and feral. Dirty and delirious, but alive. The famous Johnny Silver, the boy who would rock the world, standing underneath the fluorescent lights of a fast-food restaurant, looking as if the universe had just run him over.
For the longest time Johnny simply stood there. His eyes glazed, then focused. Tears sprung to his eyes, and they coursed silently down his cheeks, a river of white against the grime.
Nick stood up and approached him cautiously, as a lion tamer would approach his lion. "Johnny, man, what the hell happened to you?"
"I...I don't know," Johnny replied, and the shaking intensified. He looked around the fast-food restaurant as if he had no idea how he'd gotten there. "I don't remember anything, except that moment when I came out and strummed my guitar, and I looked out at the audience, at the lights...so many people -- they'd all come to see me -- roaring my name. I blinked, then in a flash everything was gone -- the club, the band, the stage, the hotels, Sunset Strip, palm trees, cars, everything disappeared. And I woke up, alone in the desert, as if none of this" -- he waved his hand to indicate the whole place and everything beyond it -- "had ever existed."