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Literature / Teen Idol

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Teen Idol is a 2004 Young Adult novel by Meg Cabot.

High school junior Jenny Greenley is good at solving problems ... so good she's the school newspaper's anonymous advice columnist. Even if solving other people's problems doesn't make her own—like not having a boyfriend—go away, it's still fun. But when nineteen-year-old screen sensation Luke Striker comes to Jenny's small town to research a role, he creates havoc that even levelheaded Jenny isn't sure she can repair ... especially since she's right in the middle of it.

Can Jenny, who always manages to be there for everybody else, learn to take her own advice, and find true love at last?

Tropes in Teen Idol Include:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: The entire newspaper staff laughs when Jen recalls accidentally throwing Trina's hat into a tuba during choir rehearsal, walking out, and tossing her expensive dress in the bathroom trash. Even earlier when it happened, one of the altos that was standing next to Jen was close to laughing.
  • Alpha Bitch: Karen Sue is revealed as one, when she and the rest of the choir tries to bully Jenny into rejoining choir in time for the competition.
  • Be Yourself: Discussed with Cara; this is the advice that Jenny keeps giving to Cara, except Cara doesn't know who she is. Jenny then decides to show her with The Makeover in looks and brains after Cara asks her parents to transfer to a military academy.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Jenny, when she starts shaking things up at her school. Luke catches a glimpse of it after Jenny comforts Cara, and thinks she can turn it up to eleven.
    • Luke is much friendlier than most actors would be, and he gets furious when he sees how Cara is bullied and Ms. Mulvaney is the victim of a malicious senior prank.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Mr. Hall invokes in regards to the girls in Show Choir, to the point of forcing them to pad their bras if they're not buxom enough.
  • Captain Ersatz: Luke's TV show Heaven Help Us is totally not 7th Heaven.
  • Celeb Crush: Trina and several others have an embarrassingly huge one on Luke.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Luke's tattoo. It ends up outing him at a car wash.
  • Clark Kenting: Jenny's opinion of Luke's Lucas Smith disguise; Jenny's dad even remarks that glasses "worked for Clark Kent". Despite Luke's acting skills helping pull it off, some people do start to suspect that he's Luke anyway.
  • Cool Teacher: Mrs. Mulvaney, but only when Betty Ann is safe and sound. If not the case, then she becomes The Ophelia.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Jenny berates herself for not helping out Cara earlier, which could have saved the poor girl lots of trouble with trying to fit in.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Some of Jen's advice as Ask Annie is this. Brutal Honesty is sometimes the best answer.
    • She advises one girl who says that her parents want her to get a summer job is that it's Actually a Good Idea because you get spending money, references from employers, and real-world experience. Jen also points out that most adults don't get two months off, so it's better to prepare ahead of time.
    • In another case, a girl confesses that she is crushing on her best friend. She asks if they can still be friends. Jen says that when you crush on someone, it affects your relationship with them whether or not you keep it a secret, so it's best to have it come out in the open. Then at least you know if your crush returns your feelings rather than keeping it as an Elephant in the Room.
    • Jen advises Trina, who sends an anon letter, that Luke Striker is not available. Instead of crushing on a celebrity, focus on the people who are actually in your life.
  • Deconstruction: Jen thinks that her talent is to keep the peace, as the Neutral Good. It doesn't matter that Kurt is a Jerk Jock, Cara is the Butt-Monkey, and Trina is a Fetishized Abuser to Scott; she has to be the "mayonnaise" of the group and not make waves. Luke points out this is really stupid for a lot of reasons: when Jen is trying to please everyone, she ignores real problems and injustices going on at the school that she can fix, and she admits that it's exhausting living her life of trying to mediate between the different cliques and outsiders. He says that with her influence, she can actually make the school better, by rescuing Betty Ann the doll from Kurt, helping out Cara with her bullying, and refusing to tolerate her best friend's ways. Even though Jen thinks that taking Luke's advice makes her life worse — Trina refuses to speak to her and sabotages her during choir rehearsal for the crime of going to the Spring Fling with Luke — she comes to admit that she's tired of trying to please everyone and it's nice to put a smile on Mrs. Mulvaney's face when she sees Betty Ann back in her rightful spot. What's more, Jen has to admit that she ought to have helped out Cara sooner rather than let the poor girl suffer for years on end.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Mr. Hall and the choir after Jen walks out of rehearsal following the tuba incident. As she points out, no one came to comfort her or even ask permission to see if she's okay, and when the choir members do call hours later, they only want Jen to return and attempt to bully her into doing so. After that fails, Karen Sue and the sopranos ambush Jen in the cafeteria, only to get chased away by her friends. Trina makes it clear that Mr. Hall hates Jen's dancing and only wanted fifteen minutes of fame of having "Luke Striker's girlfriend" in the choir. He couldn't have done a worse job of making her return.
  • Doomed New Clothes: After Jen walks out of choir, she takes the expensive dress that Mr. Hall made the students buy and toss it in the trash. Lampshaded by Scott, who can't believe that she would do that.
  • Drama Queen: Trina, Geri Lynn, Cara, Mr. Hall and almost everyone in Show Choir. In fact, this trope applies to almost everyone except for Jenny, Scott, a few students on the paper and, ironically, Luke.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After Trina was planning to dump Steve and ask Luke to the Spring Fling, both Jen and Steve deliver this, Jen by revealing that she is going to the Spring Fling with Luke and Steve by dumping Trina before the Spring Fling since she keeps moping about another guy in front of him.
  • Dumb Jock: Kurt, who doesn't even know what a ransom note is.
  • Easily Forgiven: Jen forgives Trina for sabotaging her in choir rehearsal, not admitting that the hat going into the tuba was her fault, and not even calling to apologize when Jen quits choir after the latter comes to her, apologizes three days later and skips out the competition she coveted.
  • Evil Teacher: Mr. Hall, the Show Choir teacher. He inisists on the girls wearing padded bras so they'd look alike, verbally berates Jenny every chance he gets, and convinces the other students to brow-beat Jenny into joining Show Choir again.
  • Former Child Star: Luke, but unlike what the trope suggests, he managed to transition into adult roles and his Teen Idol status. He's also very well rounded as a result of his childhood being spent on the set of a Christian TV show, which took the time to teach him morals and kindness.
  • Girl Next Door: Jen, who even knows she's this and her attractiveness is described by Trina as this. Jenny finds that being "nice little Jenny Greenley" works to her advantage when she starts shaking things up.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Scott has this as an Establishing Character Moment, where in addition to reading science fiction and editing the newspaper he also does a lot of cooking.
    • Luke isn't just a Former Child Star that managed to adjust to adult films and drinks alcohol underage; he's also a Wide-Eyed Idealist who believes people can be better than they are, especially high school teenagers.
  • Hippie Teacher: Ms. Kellogg
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Why Luke asks Jenny to the Spring Fling. He says that he never got to have a proper high school experience, and she's the only person in his life that treated him like a kid and a friend rather than a celebrity. Jen takes pity on him and says she'll be his platonic date.
  • Informed Ability: Jenny apparently gives great advice, especially as Ask Annie. However, when you actually read the Ask Annie posts they aren't that great and, in fact, some of them are unnecessarily mean-spirited. Also, Luke is supposedly perceptive and kind, but he appears to be pretty hard on Jenny, and his words do appear to be Holier Than Thou.
  • Insult to Rocks: Invoked when Jen's mother mentions that Cara wants to transfer to a military school, and Jen gets an Oh, Crap! reaction. She wonders if Clayton High is truly harder than military school for Cara, and decides to make her move to help Cara before she leaves permanently.
  • It's All My Fault: Downplayed; but Jen feels responsible when she can't go to a pool party due to being on her period and chaos results. Trina shows No Sympathy about Jen's discomfort, because Jen is the "mayonnaise" of the group. Apparently, two girls got into a fight over wearing the same swimsuit, and one chipped the other's tooth by pushing her into the pool's shallow end and making her hit the concrete bottom. Luke of all people has to point out how stupid it is that Jen puts that much effort as a peacemaker.
  • Just Friends: Luke and Jenny, who really are just friends.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Courtney Deckard, who has the trappings of being the Alpha Bitch, but doesn't go out of her way to be either malicious or nice. And she's smarter than Kurt and smart enough to realize that crossing Jenny is a bad idea.
  • Loving a Shadow: Why Jenny and Trina get into a fight following Luke's rallying speech and Luke asks Jenny out to the Spring Fling as Just Friends, just as Trina was going to dump her boyfriend again to have a chance with Luke; Jenny accuses Trina of loving the characters that Luke's played, not the person he is. This is the same reason why Jenny doesn't fall for Luke; she doesn't know him as a person as well as she knows Scott.
  • The Makeover: Jen gives Cara one that turns her from an insecure, lonely wannabe to an outgoing Big Beautiful Woman.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The sopranos when they try to ambush Jen for leaving choir, and Jen's friends, including two hundred pound Kwang, stand up for her. Their eyes get "as large as snickerdoodles" and they scatter.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Luke; in his first day at school he's bone-tired until he finds a soda machine, and afterward shows up with coffee every day, even bringing a cup for Ms. Mulvaney.
  • Nice Guy: Both Luke and Scott, albeit in rather different ways. Steve also qualifies.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Luke taking off his shirt at the car wash reveals his Angelique tattoo, outing his true identity.
  • No Accounting for Taste: We honestly don't know why Jenny is best friends with Trina, or why Steve is dating Trina. Trina uses Steve as a free ride and dumps him at every moment, and she sabotages Jenny during choral rehearsals when the former gets asked to the Spring Fling by Luke. Trina ends up skipping the competition and standing up for Jenny at the library but she is quite a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.
  • No-Sell: Jen and Scott are the only two people in the book that treats Luke like a person, not blinded by his star power. Yes, Jen admits that he's hot, but looks aren't everything. This is why they both win Luke's respect; he says that Jen is a good friend to him and Scott is a Nice Guy that deserves a good partner.
  • Not So Above It All: ALL of the town when Luke is outed at the car wash except for Scott and Jenny.
  • No Sympathy: Following the tuba incident and Jen getting bullied by choir members to return to her place, Jen says that it's not that funny because so many people are mad at her. Luke says that change causes that to happen, and reminds her about Betty Ann. In the end, however, he subverts this by asking Geri Lynn to keep an eye on Jen because he was worried that he was being too hard on her.
  • Oblivious to Love: Jenny is not only oblivious to Scott's feelings for her but her own feelings for Scott as well.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Mr. Hall when Jen walks out of choir.
    • Jen when her mother says that Cara wants to transfer to a military school, and later on when Luke reminds her about rescuing Betty Ann.
  • Only Sane Man: Jen, who is a normal girl in a school full of Drama Queens. Luke and Scott are also extremely normal. Luke convinces Jenny to take this position and use it to actively improve the school.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Discussed, with Jen thinking about how some of the students would easily find out about Luke's identity even under the glasses posed sincerely by one of the faculty members.
  • Pet the Dog: Luke starts bringing coffee for Ms. Mulvaney after learning that the seniors kidnapped her beloved doll.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: By the end, Luke and Jen.
  • Psychologist Student: Jenny solves everyone's problems, either on her own or through Ask Annie.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The librarian when she realizes that Jen has been skipping choir for a couple of days. By school policy, she would have to report Jen to the vice-principal who would give her detention for playing hooky. She politely asks Jen and Trina if they have study hall. When Trina explains that Mr. Hall has been verbally abusing Jen and motivated the latter to walk out, the librarian gets an Everyone Has Standards moment, and besides, it's Friday. She says she'll let it slide for today and they can figure out the situation on Monday. 
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Seems to be setting this up for Jen, with world-famous celebrity Luke versus ordinary, high school student Scott. Scott certainly thinks that's the case and can't imagine why she'd pick him. Subverted when Jenny tells Scott she was never interested in Luke and has only ever loved him.
  • Sadist Teacher: Mr. Hall of the Show Choir, seems to get a kick out of berating Jenny in front of everyone.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Why Jen walks out of choir following the tuba incident. She had only joined the choir to make Trina happy, not knowing that dancing was involved and planned to tolerate Mr. Hall's cruelty for Trina's sake. But after Luke's speech to her and her plan to change things, she decides to do what's right, at the risk of getting caught for skipping class.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Steve after a bad day at the Choir Regionals that started with waking up at six AM declares that he is quitting choir since he only joined to make Trina happy and they aren't even dating at the moment.
  • Seen It All: Luke is unfazed about how the entire town reacts to his appearance at a car wash, saying that people often forget that celebrities are human beings. He has trouble witnessing real high school, however, seeing how cruel people are.
  • Serial Homewrecker: main character Jenny is secretly the agony aunt, Ask Annie, for her high school newspaper, and entries from this column are interspersed throughout the book. One of these is from a girl using the name Wannabe Yours... Till I Am, who is seeking advice because she only seems to be attracted to guys who are already dating her friends. Ask Annie's advice is, um, less than helpful: she advises the girl to "keep your mitts off your friends' guys," without giving any idea of how to do that.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: The cafeteria is in Stunned Silence when Jen and Cara enter together, with the latter in clothes that actually flatter her body and with Mary Jane auburn hair bouncing in natural curls. As Jen pointed out, Cara needed to find clothes meant for her Big Beautiful Woman physique and to not wear what was the current fad. The look gives Cara the confidence to ignore Kurt mooing at her, and Jen icily tells him to cut it out. 
  • Shipper on Deck: Jenny to pretty much everyone (like Steve/Trina and Geri Lynn/Scott), but stops as the story goes on. Trina is one for Scott/Jenny.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Basically every girl for Luke - Trina, Geri, Karen Sue... Subverted with Jen, who is never interested in Luke and goes for newspaper editor/bookworm/master chef Scott, who she acknowledges other people can see as a nerd.
  • Skewed Priorities: When Luke is outed at the car wash, Trina's only concerned about getting a date with him while Jen is worried he'll get "torn to pieces" by the adoring crowd.
  • So Proud of You: Jen's parents react this way after Luke gets outed despite Jen being a Secret-Keeper; her dad mentions taking her to Driver's Ed, and her mom starts talking to her like an adult.
  • Stern Teacher: Vice-Principal Lucille Thompson, aka Juicy Lucy.
  • Sucks at Dancing: Jen says that she's not naturally rhythmic. Hence, when learning that "Show choir" is actually a euphemism for the Glee club, she's less than thrilled that the dances in question involve jazz hands and more complicated maneuvers. Jen is fine with singing, but singing and moving for a showstopper is another thing altogether. It gets to the point where Trina sabotages her on purpose by not catching her hat for "All That Jazz" and Jen accidentally tosses the hat into a tuba. Mr. Hall yells at Jen for something that was obviously unintentional, and Trina doesn't bother to speak up for her friend. This motivates Jen to walk out, much to everyone's shock.
  • Supreme Chef: Scott is this, thanks to a recreational program for delinquents that focuses on cooking. Luke at one point pretends to be one when he brings sushi for lunch and gets in a conversation with Scott about it.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Luke ends up pointing out that high school drama  may be normal for Jen, but it looks cruel to any outsider. What's more, her mediating rather than solving the problem makes Jen as complicit as the actual wrongdoers. He says that she's going to school with borderline Teens Are Monsters and that it will have negative consequences down the line if they grow up displaying that power dynamic in the world. Jen finds out that Luke is right when the seniors threaten to put Ms. Mulvaney's doll Betty Ann into a garbage disposal unless she gives them A's. She's chagrined to admit that she has been complicit in ongoing cruelties. 
    • The same situation with Cara occurs. Jen is used to giving Cara advice as "Ask Annie" to be yourself and to comfort her when the girl is sent crying to the bathroom practically every day for the crime of wearing ill-fitting clothes and trying to schmooze with the in-crowd. She also notes that Cara never thanks her for the comfort. Thing is that, as Cara sadly points out, she doesn't know how to be herself since she doesn't know who she is, and Luke notes that Jen isn't actually helping her by picking up the pieces and letting others bully her. Eventually, Cara hits a Rage Breaking Point and asks her mother if she can transfer to a military academy, because at least if you're hazed while in a strict school, no one will be mooing at you. Jen goes Oh, Crap! on hearing this and finding out that Luke was right that the way people were treating Cara is downright wrong and that she actually needs to interfere. It's not until she gives Cara a makeover, as well as healthy eating lessons and inviting her to sit at lunch with her and her friends, that Jen realizes how badly she nearly messed up.
    • A Sadist Teacher may have Ultimate Job Security, but they can't bully everyone into following their bidding. Jen walks out of show choir after Mr. Hall yells at her for an accident that wasn't her fault— she tossed a hat to Trina as part of a dance but Trina missed on purpose and the hat fell into a tuba— and says she quits. Mr. Hall tries to intimidate her by pointing out a student can't leave in the middle of class or they'll be accused of skipping. Jen responds, "Watch me" and heads to the girl's bathroom to change into her normal clothes and toss her choir dress into the garbage. She says she may have come back if someone in the choir had gone to check on her in the bathroom, but no one cared. That cemented her decision, and the newspaper staff tells her, after laughing about the tuba incident, that You Did the Right Thing. She sticks to her guns when the rest of the choir, rather rudely, calls at night to ask her to return, and her friends shoo them away when the group attempts to verbally assault Jen and Cara at lunch. In the end, they go to the semifinals without Jen. It also turns out that being a Drill Sergeant Nasty doesn't mean that you're able to whip your group into shape: Trina decides to skip as well to apologize to Jen, and that plus Mr. Hall not being nice means that the choir wipes out at Regionals and is sent home early. When the librarian politely inquires if they're skipping, she agrees to look the other way when Trina explains the situation. 
  • What the Hell, Hero?: How Luke reacts to Jen allowing others to bully Cara and only comfort her after Cara's been driven to tears in the bathroom. Her reaction in turn makes him realize how much power she has in school and thinks she can change it.
  • Wrong Guy First: Scott and Geri Lynn, for each other.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Luke thinks that Jenny has more power than she thinks she does, and she ends up proving him right by fixing the social wrongs at her school.
  • Youthful Freckles: Jen notes herself as having them.