When I saw Unrivalled described as Gossip Girl meets Pretty Little Liars, my interest was piqued as they are two of my absolute favourite guilty-pleasure series. And with both having run their course a while back, I was in the market for a new young adult series filled with scandal and intrigue to fill that hole in my life. While the first instalment in the Beautiful Idols series is less preppy than Gossip Girl and the body count doesn't come anywhere near Pretty Little Liars (yet), it is filled with a diverse cast of backstabbing characters and I am most definitely hooked.
The glittering riches of Manhattan and Rosewood have been swapped for the more seedy but still very glamorous Hollywood Boulevard, where the main characters are all taking part in a competition to become the next big thing in Hollywood's party scene. Working as promoters for Ira Redman's popular clubs they're all aiming to get their eager hands on the golden ticket to fame and fortune, and each of the participants is in it to win it – no matter the cost.
Layla is a blogger who mocks the scene and only takes part in the competition so she can go undercover and find out the secrets Ira is hiding. Tommy is a wannabe musician who is desperate for a job and he has a connection to Ira that makes him both intriguing and potentially dangerous to the big boss. Aster wants to be an actress and she thinks Ira can get her to the next stage in her career. Madison is as famous as you can get; young, beautiful and wanted by many, though for very different reasons.
Layla, Tommy and Aster are after Madison because getting her into one of their clubs would pretty much guarantee winning the competition, but someone else is on the look-out for the young actress too and that person has less than honourable intentions. Who will get to Madison first? And how far are the participants willing to go to be crowned the winner of the Unrivalled competition?
This is Gossip Girl with a gritty edge. Gone are the preppy school uniforms, they're replaced by outfits bordering on scandalous and young adults so ambitiously scheming their way through the competition that they give Blair Waldorf a run for her money.
Each of the four young characters central to this novel can be defined by a single word at the start of the journey – blogger, musician, actress, star – yet as the story progresses they become far more than that one aspect; people with ambitions, people with cunning plans, and people with secrets. It made for a highly addictive reading experience and one I did not want to end (especially not with that ending).
And on a superficial side note (which is actually pretty befitting considering how superficial most of the characters in this novel are), the cover design is absolutely lush. The book pictured above is the proof, hence the minimalist approach (which I adore but wouldn't work to launch a new series to the general public), but the final version is very similar only with added text. It looks sexily seductive and darkly dangerous, perfectly capturing the essence of this exciting new series.
The moment I picked up Unrivalled I was utterly and completely hooked. It is gripping and gritty in equal measures, and filled with scandalous secrets and characters you will love to hate. Addictive like Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game, this is a novel that has single-handedly upped the young adult mystery game to a whole new level of intrigue.
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Unrivalled is published by Mira Ink and you can buy your copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.
Connect with Alyson NoëlWebsite: www.alysonnoel.com