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The Nannies    by Melody Mayer order for
by Melody Mayer
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

How hard can it be to get the job of a nanny, and be a nanny once you get the job? Melody Mayer (from a fourth-generation Hollywood family) addresses these questions, and more, in her debut novel, The Nannies.

Kiley McCann, bored with life in La Crosse, Wisconsin, sets her sights to major in marine biology at the prestigious Scripps Institute in California. With a family struggling financially (her dad is an alcoholic), and prohibitive costs, Kiley comes up with a plan. She applies to compete on a reality show, the Platinum Nanny - to be filmed in California. The finalist will become the nanny of rock star, Platinum's three children. Mrs. McCann and Kylie stay in the fabulous Hotel Bel Air, with all expenses paid, a designer wardrobe, hair styling, and makeup. Kylie meets good-looking playboy Tom Chappelle. The competitors vary in appearance, and Kiley is the most plain of all, not in looks but in demeanor. While others wear a bikini she dons a tank suit. But, there is something very special about Kiley, and she is chosen to compete.

Lydia Chandler is tired of spending eight years in the Amazon Basin rainforest of Brazil. Doctor and Mrs. Chandler work with Doctors Without Borders. During her Amazonian years, Lydia served as a guide for visitors, studying tribes (such as the Amarakaire) and methods of survival. Lydia misses the States, and especially yearns for burgers, fries, milk shakes, and 'wild boys'. Lydia's aunt Kat, a retired tennis champ, has become a well-known ESPN news correspondent, and lives with her life-partner Anya. Lydia is unexpectedly offered the opportunity to become nanny to the couple's two children at their Bel Air mansion. In just twenty-four hours, Lydia is lazing in a bikini by the tennis-racket-shaped swimming pool. Soon, she is interested in Scott the lifeguard, spotted while partying at the country club.

Esme Castaneda grew up in a gang-ridden community in Fresno, CA, her father an illegal. Mr. Castaneda has to flee with his wife, after defending a friend from gang members. Esme is left behind with an aunt, in an area occupied by warring gangs: the Diegos and the Razor Boys. Esme becomes the lady of Diego gang member Nick. One evening, Nick asks Esme to drive his car, with other gang members in the back. A drive-by shooting ensues. Realizing she was used by Nick, Esme flees to her parents in Echo Park, LA. The Castaneda's are employed by the wealthy Goldhagen's of Bel Air. When Esme meets their twin girls, adopted from Colombia, and speaks to them in Spanish, she's offered a nanny job, with an apartment on estate grounds, a car of her own, and other perks. The Goldhagen's eighteen-year old son Jonathan captures Esme's attention.

Melody Mayer's The Nannies is well-written and flows well though slowly, with strongly-developed leads. She depicts teens with different backgrounds and goals, who all end up as nannies - a story about finding yourself, friendship and family, and about learning as events present themselves. I expected more interaction with the nannies' charges and their parents, but those take a back seat, along with some unresolved events (what happens to Kiley's intent to enter Scripps, to Esme's and her father's troubles with the law, and to Lydia's relationship with her parents in the Amazon?) Given the book's coverage of underage drinking, talk about sex, and gang violence (although not explicit or graphic), I recommend it to mid-to-older teens. It ends with a big surprise, and a sequel, Friends with Benefits is in the works.

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