Amanda Wakes Up by Alisyn Camerota

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Amanda Wakes Up is the first novel by television anchor Alisyn Camerota of CNN’s morning show New Day. Readers who loved The Devil Wears Prada will be enticed by a new example of the write-what-you-know style.

Amanda Gallo is navigating the murky waters of cable news reporting and gets her big break when she is on scene for a breaking story about an active shooter. Amanda gets a call from her friend, Laurie, who works for another network. Laurie tells Amanda that this could be the break Amanda has been looking for. Amanda becomes famous in journalistic circles for broadcasting the story in her bathing suit, even though viewers never get to see that she has no pants on!

Because of her reporting, Amanda is offered a job with FAIR News, a start-up cable news network. FAIR News promises to deliver both points of view of the news, and Amanda believes it’s a good fit for her. The on-air chemistry between the anchors of the morning show, Wake Up, USA!, at FAIR News isn’t working, so Amanda quickly becomes the new anchor. However, in the ratings-driven world of cable TV, the ideals of the new network don’t seem to last long.

The story is set during the 2016 presidential campaign. Hollywood actor Victor Fluke and Senator Virginia Wynn are the thinly disguised candidates. It’s not long before journalistic values and ethics begin to clash with the “facts” and talking points of the candidates.

Camerota offers a glimpse into the world of cable network news and what it takes to produce it. Amanda is thrilled with her new job. She now has a six-figure salary, a wardrobe allowance and a limousine to pick her up. Her daily routine now includes getting picked up at 3:45 a.m., dressing in the outfit selected by the wardrobe stylist, makeup at 4:30 and hair at 5:00. There’s barely enough time for the whole process. Certainly, there’s little time to read the talking points and all the research printed off the Internet by the producer’s assistants.

Amanda’s co-host, Rob Lahr, is suave, sophisticated and shallow. At least that’s what Amanda thinks. He never challenges guests; he simply goes along with the producer’s directions. Amanda and Rob have great chemistry on-air, but off-air they are rather cool to each other until Amanda begins to have trouble with her boyfriend, Charlie, a university history professor and an educated liberal. Amanda’s job at FAIR News has the viewers and Charlie convinced that she is a staunch conservative. Amanda feels she is helping America heal by pointing out the flawed arguments on each side of issues. She wants to bring people together. After several weeks at FAIR, Amanda and Charlie go to a party. Tensions rise as the other guests bait Amanda and she tries to defend herself. She asks Charlie if they can leave, but they wind up having a fight and he leaves without her.

In the world of TV news, you are only as good as your last story. In order to break the vicious cycle of reporting on Fluke and his view of the news, Amanda and her friend Laurie try to get a housekeeper who worked for Fluke years ago to talk. Laurie acquired documents to support the claim of the housekeeper that they were lovers, but the networks and their lawyers believe Laurie needs the housekeeper to talk on camera to support the story. Amanda and Laurie fly to Surprise, Arizona, to interview Martina. She confesses to Amanda, but she refuses to go on air. Laurie secretly tapes her anyway. Amanda doesn’t believe they should use the material since Martina refused to give her permission to use it. Laurie insists, and gives the story to Amanda’s arch rival. Amanda’s boss and her producer demand that Amanda relate the story on the air while they pull video from the other networks. Amanda refuses and goes rogue.

The novel is a wacky look at cable news and the people who work in it as well as the characters who appear on the programs. During the novel’s writing, Camerota’s editor often asked her if she was psychic. She denied it, saying, “I can’t count how many times my editors, agent and I would gasp in amazement at how something I’d already written came true in the 2016 election…The parallels between my fictional world and the real one became so striking that at one point my editor begged me to share future lottery numbers with her.” But the book isn’t autobiographical. Camerota says the story is a composite of “interviews, dilemmas, questions and laughs I’ve experienced over the course of my career.” With three decades in TV news, Camerota writes with an authenticity that is hard to match. Her standards make you wish more anchors would follow her example. ■