Close Ups and Mess Ups by Natasha WestClose Ups And Mess Ups by Natasha West is a coming of age story about finding out who you really are and learning that you cannot always trust the negative people in your life.

Allie Parker deeply wants to be a director of horror movies but her application to film school was rejected. But on the day that she loses her dead end job she gets a phone call from the school telling her that she has won a place in the program. Sure, it is two weeks into the year but she can still catch up.

Determined to make the most of this opportunity she packs, takes out a loan, finds a place to stay near the school and swears off women in order to focus solely on her future.

Unfortunately Allie isn’t as strong willed as she thought she was and when she sees the drop dead gorgeous Ashley in paint covered sweats she finds that her hormones might be a little stronger than her desire to focus only on her academics.

If that wasn’t bad enough she also meets Cameron, a sensitive screenwriter who creates stories that Allie loves to film.

Three women, one year and a lot of time for mistakes.

This high drama, sweet book had me turning pages as I eagerly anticipated the next instalment of Allie’s year at film school.

The Characters

Allie is a sweet and often naive character. She takes things at face value based on what other people tell her. Her character arc is fun to watch as she learns a number of difficult life lessons through the book.

Cameron is a nervous, mouse of a woman. She is a brilliant writer but seems afraid to stand up for herself. When she and Allie do a project together they discover a symbiosis that works well for them both and there is a mutual attraction.

Ashley is a creative, vivacious set designer who has an eye for beauty and she and Allie have an attraction too.

The push and pull between Allie and the other two women is compellingly done.

The Writing Style

The story is paced well for the most part. I wonder, though, if it shouldn’t have started a little later and if we needed the background on Allie’s workplace before film school. I didn’t hate the extra bit, I just wonder if it didn’t delay the story too much.

I liked the twists and turns as Allie learns new information from people and how she grows as a person.

The Pros

Natasha West writes well and characters are definitely her biggest strength. Her characters are compelling and the situations she put them in are also really interesting. But, this book also had a plot appeal to me because of the film school aspect. It was fun to see it play out and as someone who went to film school myself I loved the details of the shoots and projects they had to do.

I loved the unexpected romance and the push and pull that I felt between the two potential love interests.

The Cons

There were none for me.

sheena's favouriteThe Conclusion

If you enjoy books about characters finding out who they really are, big learning curves in life and love then this is a great read.

I am particularly keen on the film school setting and all the awesomeness that comes from it like having to manage diva actresses or actors who just aren’t giving you the energy you need. Ah, film school – so glad I am done with it.

This story is so full of great, realistic moments and endearing that I recommend it to anyone who wants to feel that thrill of being at uni again or anyone who just loves a good setting.

Excerpt from Close Ups And Mess Ups by Natasha West

at the edge of my vision, something pulled my focus. Walking through the café was a woman wearing loose sweats, covered in paint splatters, a thick mane of copper hair stuffed into a loose ponytail, strutting through the building in a way that most people couldn’t have managed even if they were dressed to the nines. She looked like she didn’t give a shit about what anyone thought.  

And what did I think? I thought she was the sexiest creature I’d ever seen outside of a movie.       

‘Hey!’ Janey suddenly. ‘Where the hell did you just go?’

I turned quickly, trying to drag my attention back to Janey. I’d always had this problem with the very hot ones. They hypnotise me. I’m like a child walking past a toyshop window. But there was no chance I was going to admit that I’d stopped mid-sentence because a good-looking woman had walked by. I was way past puberty, I should have had that under control by this point. I’d only met Janey this morning and I didn’t want her to think I was some sort of dog that wanted to hump everything. I was a nun this year anyway, I’d vowed it.

‘Oh, I was just thinking about this movie…’

Janey pressed her lips together in a cheeky smile. ‘Yeah, right. You were looking at Ashley Douglas.’  

‘Who’s Ashley Douglas?’ I asked, genuinely. I didn’t know Miss Paint Splatter’s name, after all.

Janey looked at me incredulously, ‘So you’re another one? Jesus, what is it with her? Half the school wants to shag her.’

I shrugged and smiled, giving in. It was a pretty organic way to come out at the school, after all. It wasn’t that I was worried to do it, it was more the annoyance of having to do some big reveal. Now Janey knew and she might drop that detail into convo with a classmate and from there, the information of my orientation would find its way to everyone else. Job done. ‘I guess I’m with half the school then.’

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Bits and Bobs

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Note: I received a free review copy of Close Ups And Mess Ups by Natasha West. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site

Sheena is the founder of The Lesbian Review.

She discovered lesbian fiction when she was 19. Radclyffe and Karin Kallmaker soon became favourite authors and she spent a large part of her hard earned income on shipping books from Amazon.com to her home in South Africa.

Over the years she became frustrated with purchasing mediocre lesbian fiction feeling like it was a waste of her money and time. And so she decided to share only the best books and movies with lesbians who are looking for only the best. And so, The Lesbian Review was born