ARC Review: Sizzle Reel by Carlyn Greenwald

  • Title: Sizzle Reel
  • Author: Carlyn Greenwald
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • Release Date: 4/18/23
  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Publisher’s Summary: An unputdownable queer coming-of-age rom-com about life and love in Hollywood. For aspiring cinematographer Luna Roth, coming out as bisexual at twenty-four is proving more difficult than she anticipated. Sure, her best friend and fellow queer Romy is thrilled for her–but she has no interest in coming out to her backwards parents, she wouldn’t know how to flirt with a girl if one fell at her feet, and she has no sexual history to build off. Not to mention she really needs to focus her energy on escaping her emotionally-abusive-but-that’s-Hollywood talent manager boss and actually get working under a real director of photography anyway. When she meets twenty-eight-year-old A-list actress Valeria Sullivan around the office, Luna thinks she’s found her solution. She’ll use Valeria’s interest in her cinematography to get a PA job on the set of Valeria’s directorial debut–and if Valeria is as gay as Luna suspects, and she happens to be Luna’s route to losing her virginity, too . . . well, that’s just an added bonus. Enlisting Romy’s help, Luna starts the juggling act of her life–impress Valeria’s DP to get another job after this one, get as close to Valeria as possible, and help Romy with her own career moves. But when Valeria begins to reciprocate romantic interest in Luna, the act begins to crumble–straining her relationship with Romy and leaving her job prospects precarious. Now Luna has to figure out if she can she fulfill her dreams as a filmmaker, keep her best friend, and get the girl. . . or if she’s destined to end up on the cutting room floor.

Rachel Lynn Solomon, one of my favorite authors, posted about how much she loved Sizzle Reel on Instagram, and I knew I had to go to NetGalley to request it right away. I was thrilled when I was approved.

Sizzle Reel hooked me immediately. The first chapter opens with narration from Luna about how attracted she is to Rachel Brosnahan as she gets distracted by how much her therapist looks like the actress. I love how real and funny this introduction to Luna is. This moment immediately lets the reader into her head and sets the tone for the reader for the rest of the story.

Romy is a delightful character. She is loyal and caring, and a little bit nerdy (she creates a list of essential Sapphic Films Luna has to watch). She devotes a huge amount of time and energy to supporting her friend, Luna, in her process of coming out and giving Luna relationship advice. It frustrates me that Luna does not reciprocate this support and care. When Romy gets an exciting career opportunity, Luna has to talk herself into being supportive. Romy is certainly a fully fleshed out character complete with crises, but sometimes Luna seems to forget that.

On the other hand, Luna’s relationship with Valeria doesn’t sit right with me. As a celebrity, Valeria has power over an assistant like Luna. It makes sense that Valeria becomes a professional mentor for Luna and helps push her career forward. However, as soon as their relationship becomes romantic, the power imbalance becomes problematic. I am relieved that the novel does acknowledge this.

Greenwald does a phenomenal job of painting pictures for the reader. When Luna describes a shot she wants to create, the reader can almost see it play out. The vivid descriptions of the old LA Zoo really jumped out at me.

“The Zoo itself was, obviously abandoned, leaving cages open to hikers, who would slip into the labyrinthian halls and enter the enclosures. Graffiti, most of it satanic, covers the walls like a coat.”

Greenwald paints a picture for her readers that make them feel transported along with her characters.

I get excited whenever I pick up a book with Jewish representation. There are a few Jewish references in Sizzle Reel – Luna references a a “Hanukkah present” and she talks about how her parents love Wyatt because he has a “Jewish pretty-boy look.” It is clear Luna’s Judaism matters to her, but it is not the focal piece of her identity to the story. This feels like a very accurate portrayal of a secular Jew.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sizzle Reel, and I look forward to seeing what Greenwald does next. Her characters and settings jump off the page and draw the reader into the world of the novel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s