When Amanda Gallo, fresh from the backwater of local TV, lands the anchor job of her dreams at FAIR News, she thinks she’s finally made it: a six-figure salary, wardrobe allowance, plenty of on-air face time, and a chance to realize her dreams, not to mention buy herself lunch. Instead, she finds her journalistic ideals shredded as she struggles to keep up with the issues in a ratings-crazed madhouse: battling for hair and makeup time; coping with her sexist (but scathingly handsome) coanchor, Rob; and showing Benji Diggs, her media maestro boss, that she’s got what it takes.
As the news heats up in a hotly contested election season and a wildcard candidate, former Hollywood actor Victor Fluke, appears on the scene, Amanda’s pressure-cooker job gets hotter while her personal life unravels. Walking a knife’s edge between ambition and survival, and about to break the biggest story of her career, Amanda must decide what she’s willing to give up to get ahead—and what she needs to hold onto to save herself.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
My eyes snapped open. I'd been dreaming that an alarm was going off somewhere just out of reach. Only now as the fuzzy room came into focus did I realize the sound was my cell phone chirping next to my head. I fumbled around on the nightstand, almost knocking over my water glass, then croaked, "Hello?"
"Hey," Laurie said, wide awake, as though it weren't a Saturday morning in August. "You're not asleep, are you?"
"Sort of," I said softly, trying not to wake Charlie.
"Are you still at Patricia's house?"
I was grateful for the memory jog because my brain hadn't yet squared why the pale curtains with the sun streaming through them looked so different from the blinds in my apartment, which faced a brick wall.
"Yeah, we're still here," I said, rubbing my left temple. "We stayed out late last night. There was this great beach bar that had this fantastic ska band. And we were dancing, and it's possible we were overserved, so we decided to stay over."
"There's something going on at the post office in Smithtown."
"There's something . . . going on . . . at the post office . . . in Smithtown," I repeated slowly, as if learning a foreign language.
"Dataminr has something about a gunman inside the Smithtown Post Office. It's just a couple of weird tweets. I can't find anything else online and the PIO at the police department is useless. She's not returning my calls. Don't you have a contact at the PD there?"
"Uh, yes, I do," I said, waiting for my brain to connect and retrieve his name from six months ago. A cop contact was always better for real info than the public information officer. "He's a good one, too. I helped him find that fugitive, whatever his name was. I can call him."
"Why don't you just drive over there and see what's going on?" she said.
"What am I, your intern?"
"Hey, I'm giving you a hot tip. An active-gunman story could catapult you to the top of Newschannel 13. You could leapfrog that guy who loves the walk-and-talk stand-up. 'Look at me! Reporting live from the scene, I'm Dave Jeffries,'" she said in a fake TV voice.
"It's Jeff Davis!" It cracked me up that Laurie couldn't be bothered to learn the name of the guy who considered himself king of the hill at my lame local station. "I'll call my detective and call you back."
"Good. I'm in the truck. We're heading there."
"Are you kidding?" I said. "BNN is already rolling a truck? What if it's nothing?"
"We got nothing else going on. Maybe we get lucky and it's a hostage crisis."
"Doesn't get luckier than that."
"You know what I mean," she said. "I'll take a hostage situation any day over some dumbass election story. This'll be refreshing."
"Fly in, get the gore, fly out," I said, quoting Laurie's own favorite expression back to her.
"Exactly," she said. "See what you get from your source and call me back."
"What was that about?" Charlie asked, his eyes shut and voice thick with sleep.
"Sorry," I whispered, as though that would make up for just having had a phone conversation next to his ear. "That was Laurie. She read some tweet about a gunman or something at the post office in Smithtown and she wants me to call my source."
"That sounds like it can wait," Charlie said, putting his arm around me and pulling me toward his warm body.
"Hold on, hold on," I said, laughing. I always found it funny, and a little annoying, when people not in the news business thought breaking news could wait.
"Let me call my detective and confirm it's nothing," I said, pulling my arm back from Charlie so I could scroll through my contacts until I saw one that rang the right bell. I dialed.
"Pultro," he answered.
"Hey, Detective Pultro. It's Amanda Gallo, Newschannel 13. Sorry to bother you on a Saturday. I just got a tip about something possibly happening at a post office in your area."
"I can't confirm anything, Amanda. You know that. You gotta go through my PIO."
"Yeah, I'm having a hard time getting in touch with her right now," I said, neglecting to mention I hadn't tried. "I just need to know if there's a situation that would warrant my driving over to Smithtown right now."
He paused. "Yeah, that'd probably be wise."
"Oh. Okay. Really? So is there a gunman at the post office?"
"I'm on my way there. That's all I can tell you."
I hung up and turned to Charlie. "I think I have to go. It sounds like something's happening."
"Really?" He rubbed his eyes and sat up.
My heart was starting to race as I looked around and tried to figure out the steps necessary to get from bed to a live shot location. In situations like this, I always wondered what it must be like for regular people: people who could wake up and get the news about a crazed gunman or a plane crash or a hurricane, taking it in at their leisure, maybe even from bed; people who could let someone else handle it. How easy and effortless it must feel to "watch" the news rather than deliver it. And sometimes, like this morning, I envied the numb listlessness of letting news wash over you, rather than taking a heart-pumping dive into the middle of it. My hands were shaky as I dialed the number to the newsroom.
"Newschannel 13!" Zeke answered like his hair was on fire.
"Zeke, it's Amanda."
"Amanda, I'm in the weeds! We're getting reports of a gunman at a post office on the Island, but I haven't been able to confirm it."
"I know!" I told him. "I just talked to my detective source there. It sounds like it's for real."
"Shit, really? Okay, I'm going to roll the truck. I wish I could send you, but I already gave it to Jeff. He's ready, but none of my fucking fotogs are answering their fucking phones. Call me in an hour. Maybe I could have you do a setup piece from the studio tonight or something. We have to see what happens. I just don't know yet."
"But Zeke, I'm here! I'm already on Long Island. I'm like ten miles away from Smithtown."
"Yes! I'm here. Don't send Jeff!"
"Gallo is there! She's ten minutes away!" Zeke yelled to the newsroom. "Jesus, that's fantastic! How quick can you be live?"
"I'm leaving right now. Maybe fifteen minutes?"
"Make it ten. Call me as soon as you get there. You won't have a crew, but you can do a phoner. No other station is at the scene yet, so GET GOING!"
I jumped up, beginning to scour the floor for my clothes, suddenly feeling self-conscious and silly to be undressed in the face of such a serious news story, as if the camera crew were in the room and the viewers were watching me look for my clothing. What the hell? Had someone hidden my clothes?
"Have you seen my pants?" I asked Charlie, who was stepping unsteadily into his own khaki shorts.
Charlie rubbed his forehead. "I'm going to go out to the kitchen and see if I can find some coffee. I don't remember you having any pants."
"Very funny," I said to his back as he walked out. Then it hit me, with the same sudden anxiety that comes in those dreams where you're late to a final exam and realize you're in your underwear. I had no pants. Charlie and I had decided, on a whim, to escape the sweltering city and head to my friend Patricia's beach house. I'd thrown on a bathing suit, T-shirt, and some flip-flops, then grabbed a towel and off we'd gone in the Zipcar. We hadn't planned to stay over . . . or drink those margaritas.
Across the room I spotted my blue bikini hanging limply on the back of a chair and made my way toward it. Clutching the chair, I teetered on one leg, stepping into the bottoms, which were, to my surprise, still a tad damp, then I fastened the unpleasantly clammy top around my back. I retrieved my bright pink T-shirt from the floor and pulled it over my head, realizing too late it was on inside out. I saw my sunscreen on the chair and threw it in my bag just as my phone trilled excitedly on the nightstand again. I grabbed it, thinking how royally screwed I'd be if I'd left it there.
"Hey," Laurie said, "what did you find out?"
"It sounds like something is happening. My detective said he's on his way to the scene."
"Dataminr says there could be nine people inside."
"Jesus. Okay, I'm getting dressed and heading over there."
"Hurry up," Laurie said. "We're pulling up now."
Of course she is. Of course Best News Network, or BNN as everyone called it, was arriving while Newschannel 13 was still dicking around looking for a crew. Laurie and BNN were always three steps ahead of everyone else.
"Is Gabe there? Which stations are there?" I asked. "Is WNBC there? Laurie?"
She'd hung up.
I threw my phone in my bag and headed to the kitchen, where Patricia was standing at the sink filling a kettle with water.
"I'm sorry, did we wake you? We've gotta go," I told her.
"I know. I heard. If you can wait five minutes, I'm making coffee."
"I really can't," I said. "Charlie, you and I can hit a drive-through when we get there, okay?" I was trying to sound accommodating, but my voice came out too loud and urgent.
Patricia turned from the sink and stopped. "Is that what you're wearing?"
"I don't have anything else!" I said, my chest getting tighter. "It was so hot when we left the city."
"But shouldn't you put on some . . . shorts?"
"I didn't bring any!" I practically yelled, circling the sofa now, looking for my purse. "I thought we'd just be at the beach!"
She screwed up her mouth. "I'd give you some of mine, but you'd swim in them."
"Let me try 'em," I said, sending Patricia into her room, from which she emerged twenty seconds later holding out a pair of faded blue cotton shorts. I stepped into them, zipped them up, snapped the top snap, then watched them fall directly down to my ankles. "Yeah, that's not gonna work," I said. "Shit! I can't go to an armed standoff at a federal post office with no pants."
"What is the proper attire for an armed standoff?" Patricia asked seriously. People were always asking me about my TV clothes, where I got them, how much they cost, how I knew which colors to wear to which stories.
"I mean, there's no handbook for a hostage situation per se," I said, in a ridiculous attempt to try to actually answer her question. "But I'd say pants. For starters."
"I can drive around and find you something," Charlie offered. "As soon as I find coffee."
"Has anyone seen my flip-flops?" I asked, scanning the carpet until I spied them under the sofa. "Oh, thank God," I said, holding one up and waving its pinkness at Patricia, "though, may I add, these are not appropriate footwear for an armed standoff. Let's go," I said to Charlie, who was already grabbing the car keys from the counter. "The assignment desk needs me there in ten minutes!"
The radio reports in the car were a jumble of urgent bulletins that I tried to commit to memory in order to repeat them for my phoner: SWAT teams arriving, police setting up a perimeter. Post office opened at eight. First reports twenty-three minutes later. Unclear how many inside. Gunman's identity not yet known. Unknown number of injuries or fatalities . . .
I found a white cocktail napkin in my bag, a cling-on from last night, and jotted notes as Charlie drove. "The cops have got to know the gunman's name by now," I told him.
Now I was excited. This was exactly the kind of story I'd been waiting for: something big, the kind that would require insight and depth and tenacity and good sources. A story I could own. One that Jeff Davis couldn't bigfoot. A story that would get attention, and maybe get me out of Newschannel 13, Land of Car Crashes and Water Main Breaks.
Man, how many water main breaks had I covered? There was that horrible one in Midtown last winter, where I stood in the middle of the street, a deluge gurgling around my rubber boots, sending ice-cold blood from my toes to my brain and giving me the dreaded mouth freeze that makes reporters sound drunk. Then that other one in North Jersey in February, where I was stuck for five hours and had to cancel on Charlie for dinner.
I thought about Laurie's life at BNN, that coveted wonderland of high salaries and rich resources, a haven of Ivy League-educated producers and brand-name anchors-so far from my little world of local news with its budget cuts and worn-out equipment. BNN seemed an almost mythical place: A deep-pocketed national network, with good lighting, great bookers, greenrooms with goodies, and cameramen who don't make reporters carry the tripod. A paradise of professional makeup artists and wardrobe mavens who transform correspondents into brightly hued television creatures. Working at a network was like living in a shining castle on a hill, with gold statuettes lining the lobby shelves, and big scoops just waiting to be broken. Dammit. Laurie was probably working over some sheriff's deputy at the post office right now, getting an exclusive interview. If only Charlie would step on it, maybe I could beat the other local reporters there. And maybe this one could be my ticket off the local news bus and onto the network luxury liner.
"I have to find out the gunman's identity and backstory," I told Charlie as I turned up the radio, hoping for some new nugget.
"I'm going to guess he's the same as a lot of these guys," Charlie said. "Unhinged, mentally unstable, susceptible to suggestion, then something sets him off."
I wrote that down: Unhinged, susceptible to suggestion, set off by something. I liked how Charlie phrased that-plus I was desperate for something to say on the phoner. I rolled down my window, taking in big gulps of air. The sun was up, revealing a baby blue sky. I had to admit, it was perfect. I couldn't ask for a better day for an armed standoff. Being outside for twelve hours of live shots would be a breeze. I watched the trees out the window passing too slowly and felt my right foot pressing down on an imaginary accelerator. "Hit the gas, would you!!" I almost yelled at Charlie, though I couldn't very well expect my mild-mannered boyfriend to have the same pedal-to-the-metal excitement for a developing calamity that those of us in news did. Charlie was different-he got excited by a well-written thought piece in the Nation. His students loved him for being an approachable, open-door professor. And I loved that he was a globally minded do-gooder rather than a jaded news guy who got off on ambulance chasing and talking about his last kick-ass assignment that always somehow took place in a war zone. I'd first spotted Charlie a year ago, one night last summer. I'd just moved back to New York and Laurie convinced me to abandon all the cardboard boxes in my fourth-floor walk-up so we could celebrate my new reporting job in the number one market and my escape from the crappy Roanoke station where I'd been trapped for two years.
Reading Group Guide
1. Amanda Wakes Up is about a local news journalist who lands her dream job coanchoring a national morning show on cable television. Alisyn Camerota is a CNN anchor, and was a reporter and anchor for many years at FOX News, so she writes Amanda from experience. What surprised you about her depiction of a newsroom?
2. Amanda is ambitious and determined, but also terrified when she has the opportunity to go on Wake Up, USA! In your own life, have you encountered a moment when you felt your dreams might come true? How did you react?
3. Many of the events in this novel feel eerily similar to the 2016 United States presidential election. Why do you think Alisyn Camerota chose to set her story during this era in journalism, rather than a steadier time?
4. Charlie puts pressure on Amanda to challenge presidential-hopeful Victor Fluke, even suggesting she “take him down by Election Day.” Amanda is adamant that her role is to tell the story, not influence the outcome. Do you agree?
5. The media fell under a lot of pressure following the 2016 U.S. presidential election with accusations of “fake news.” How do you see this theme explored in Amanda Wakes Up? Does reading the novel change your experience of watching television news?
6. There have been a lot of stories about sexual harassment in the media. Through movements like #MeToo and #PressForward, people are pushing for change and equality in the workplace. Do you see these dynamics in play in Amanda Wakes Up? If so, how well do you think Amanda navigates them?
7. Why do you think Amanda leaves Charlie for Rob? What does she find appealing about Rob, aside from his good looks?
8. In the novel, Amanda often finds herself having to reconcile the rules of journalism with real-life experiences where those rules don’t apply. Have you ever been in a situation that required you to break the rules? What did you do?
9. Amanda Wakes Up can be looked at as a book about how when dreams come true, they often don’t look the way we imagined. Have you ever experienced this? How did it feel?
10. When Amanda attends the White House Halloween party, she goes as half of a Rubik’s Cube. If you received an invitation, what would you wear?
11. At the end of the novel, we find out that Laurie has aired the story on BNN and exposed Martina against her wishes. What do you think about Laurie’s argument that the story comes before the source? Was Amanda right not to air the video on Wake Up, USA?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was described as "The Devil Wears Prada meets Primary Colors." I completely disagree! This book did not have the wit of the fun feel of either of those books. The book follows character Amanda Gallo as she climbs the career ladder nabbing the job of her dreams. Her personal life struggles mirror the book's real conflict: the ratings-driven news industry. Then it takes a dark turn, when then character Amanda starts voicing how she is "waking up," which is really just code for fictionalizing the 2016 Election, bashing liberals, and shoving a conservative agenda down the readers throat. As a journalist myself, I appreciate and understand the honest behind the scenes of journalism story line. However, I think it takes the character too long to realize that every story has more than two-sides. I mean, isn't the golden rule that every story has three sides (at least), Perspective A, Perspective B and the Truth. What really drove me crazy about this book was the reference to real people and political situations. At this point in time, I began to feel like the opinion of the author via the main character, Amanda Gallo, was all that mattered. Anyone that didn't agree with Amanda Gallo is made to feel like an idiot, or like they are biased and not considering both sides of the story (even though it's clear to any outsider that Amanda's "Fair News" isn't fair and Amanda has her own opinions she can't help but spout). This book to me was simply nauseating, although well written.
What a funny, uplifting and insightful book about the journey of a reporter in a divided world. I laughed harder than I have in a long time reading a book, at Amanda's hilarious take on the world and her wit in the face of pressure. In an era of divisive politics and unrelenting pursuit of profit and ratings, Amanda's experience gives us a glimpse of a reporter's struggle, from a first-rate anchor, Alisyn Camerota. The world needs more reporters like Amanda, and like Alisyn herself. I can't wait for a sequel!
I like Alisyn and picked up the book. I was very impressed with the book, an enjoyable read and worth every minute. Write more.
What a fun read ! I loved it. Alison gave a faithful story about journalists and how truly they want to get stories in a correct and fair way. I am uplifted and cheeredl by this book. It"s just a delight and fully insightful of a form of parriotic duty we all can believe in. Kathy G in Ft. Myers, Fla
I found this to be a very enjoyable story that held my interest and was funny and entertaining. Right off the bat, Amanda Gallo, a reporter for a sub-par news agency, is called to investigate and report a bank robbery that just happens to be 10 minutes away from her friend's house where she has spent the night. Unfortunately, Amanda went to her friend's house thinking they were only going to go swimming and hit some local bars. So . . . dressed in all that she has with her, a bikini, a T-shirt and flip flops, Amanda shows up ready to report. Unfortunately, what she thought was going to be a phoned in report turns into a live camera report. Her reputation is set, she is now known as the girl who reports without pants. Ha!! This is just the beginning of the laughs that are abound in this very entertaining book. Thanks to Penguin Group/Viking and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.