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Smile for the Camera: A Memoir

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  454 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Kelle James left an abusive home at the age of sixteen and went to the best place she could imagine: New York City. She had big plans of becoming a model, but within a week she was homeless and broke. What follows is her exceptional story of trying to make it on her own with nothing to her name and no one to trust. She encounters a string of people who take advantage of he ...more
Hardcover, 392 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
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3.70  · 
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 ·  454 ratings  ·  89 reviews

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This book had a unique plot but underdeveloped writing - for a debut novel it was forgivable, but there were errors in pacing and characertization I found disheartening. The story of a young, aspiring model escaping her hometown to live it big in New York, I found the cover and book jacket intruiging so I picked it up. I would not say I regret it, but this is not a book I'll recommend in the future.

The writing itself sounded forced, almost as if Kelle's innocence was a facade. I felt sympathy fo
Kathy Morris
Nov 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I found this true story to be a powerfully moving tale. Kelle has a wonderful style that makes you want to read it from cover to cover. I am fifty something and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There is something for everyone here - humor, sadness, triumph, danger, suspense, hope and more. As a teen, Kelle had some life issues to deal with and her decisions are incredible. A good read - check it out.
Rebecca McNutt
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This shocking book, instead of sugarcoating and glamourizing the Big Apple, disassembles it and shows the gritty, grim reality of what things are like behind closed doors for a young girl with big dreams and no money.
Lark Alexandar
Dec 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book! It made me want to model!! I just loved how Kelle's life seemed so fictional. It was truly great!
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book so much. Kelle went through so much and survived. She was so strong and brave and never stopped believing that she could get through it. She inspires me to never give up hope, no matter what.
Sue T
Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Wow, a great read for teens or adults. Just amazing all the stuff she went through and still came out ok. I think this book would help a lot of people while entertaining them at the same time. A lot of funny moments too. I highly recommend.
Nov 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! What a life this girl had! Great story and great writing. Definitely recommend this one!
Dec 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Kelle James captures the voice of her youth extraordinarily well. She hides her abusive background with a veil of believable innocence. Good for girls who want an edgy book but not super intense.
T.V and Book Addict
Nov 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
What an interesting memoir!
Dec 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Just great :)
Loved it- it's such an inspirational book.
Claudia Elizabeth
AMAZING BOOK. A fascinating story and great read. Would absolutely recommend to everyone!
Camelia Pecchia
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Smile for the Camera by Kelle James was a memoir retelling Kelle's struggles as a sixteen year old model living in New York City. In the late 1970's Kelle leaves her abusive father and heads to New York to fulfill her dream as a model. Leaving with only one hundred dollars in her pocket Kelle faces the big city all on her own. She replays memories of her violent, abusive father and tries to get away from the past. Kelle leaves by herself because she doesn’t have anyone else with her and hopes to ...more
Eliza Fayle
Jan 06, 2013 rated it liked it
When I first started reading Smile For The Camera, by Kelle James, I was a little surprised how light the reading was. Then I remembered I was advised it is actually targeted as a children’s book, but would likely greatly enjoy it myself. Well, my childhood days are way behind me, but yes indeedy-do I did greatly enjoy Smile For The Camera.

I am a total sucker for stories of women who do not even have the word ‘victim’ in their vocabulary. Given the extreme psychological and physical abuse she su
Feb 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As my mom handed me this book and said something like " I think you'll like it!" I sort of thought I wouldn't. Even as I started reading the first few chapters, I didn't know if I liked it or not. But then, all of a sudden, I couldn't put the book down! The main character, Kelle, lived in a poor place with a mom who could not control her crazy dad and a few brothers so she wanted to get out and see the world instead of staying in that horrible lifestyle! So she hopped on a train to New York Cit ...more
By Flashlight
Dec 29, 2011 rated it liked it
"Smile For The Camera" is a coming-of-age journey of leaving behind an abusive father for a city that a naïve 16-year-old isn’t prepared for.

Are you are looking for a quick, fun read? Then keep looking. The main character never seems to win. Ever. There are a couple of happy parts, but they generally turn bittersweet pretty quickly. Most of the story was actually pretty interesting, but it seemed to jump around a lot. I wasn’t that interested in the trial, and the author focuses on it in the sec
Nov 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to 712Camille by: Ivy Kirby
Shelves: 7th-grade
This memoir was really amazing! The author and main character, Kelle James, had a very interesting life! She went from the country to NYC, from an abusive afther to a loving friend, from a quiet life to a loud one. All of the events that she went through all seemed unreal, you wouldn't believe this was a memoir! I enjoyed listening to her life un-fold, it was that intreging! The detail the author put into her life made the story feel real, though. This memoir was so good because the events of Ke ...more
Apr 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
This is a memoir. So it really happened. But it is not supposed to happen. You are not supposed to get on a bus at 16, move to New York City from the country, not know anyone and then become a successful model and star in advertisements. It is not supposed to work that way. But it does. America is the land of opportunity. Of course she does have some rather large set backs and LOTS of guts. And she knows how to land a punch to the groin. It all helps.
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
This book was a five star until the end. It put me in a down mood and I wish the author had finished it a different way. Over all it was a pretty amazing book and it holds a lot of life lessons between it's covers. I feel that I should own this book, I'll have to buy a copy.
Allison Liu
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don't typically enjoy memoirs, but this was one I definitely enjoyed. Following Kelle James's journey through New York, and surviving the city and forces young girls to grow up too quickly was so beautiful.

Kelle is 16 when she moves to New York City with aspirations of being a model and a hundred dollars. Although she left for NYC looking for a new life, follow in her idol's footsteps, and leave her abusive father, she is still very much innocent. The lessons she learns in the City That Never
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
A memoir, Smile for the Camera, by Kelle James. Kelle was only 16 years old when she started to live the life she wanted. Coming form a small town;escaping the abuse and becoming someone in life. This memoir is a good book, every inspiring shows how you can have a strong comeback.I recommend it for the people who are always down on life, not sure if there good enough or just think they can't do anything useful.
Smile for the Camera is a very interesting book, it also inspiring. She came out of
Emily Rivera
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Non-fiction is usually a genre that doesn't cross my mind; however, this book by Kelle James made it seem like a breeze. Written like fiction, after reading it, the idea of an autobiography doesn't seem to fit the lines either. The abuse that James went through in her youth seemed to have an impact once she grew older. When she meets her new best friend, Rayna, by her side, she seemed indestructible living her best life in the Big Apple. Now, it was how she was going to forget her past, that was ...more
Skyler Wurzel
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ugh. This one is always a good read.
Read it several times.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story was interesting but I found the writing style distracting.
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Smile for the Camera is a truly enlightening memoir, a glimpse into a shattered looking glass. Written by Kelle James, it powerfully discusses her struggle to leave her dysfunctional and abusive small-town life in order to become a model in New York City. The story begins with Kelle arriving in New York City for the first time at the age of sixteen. She finds her life in the city intimidating and overwhelming. All of a sudden the reader can immediately relate to Kelle. She is a lost and confused ...more
Joana (The Boundless Booklist)

Sick of dealing with an abusive father, Kelle decides it’s time to leave home and heads for the Big Apple. She has dreams of becoming a model and New York City is just the place to make them come true. She is sure she will find fame, fortune, and people who treat her right, but what she gets is definitely not what she expected. Young, beautiful, and naive, she is taken advantage of by the men she encounters, gets herself mixed up in the most fam
Lauren Michels
Nov 16, 2011 rated it liked it
From reading this book by Kelle James, I think her purpose in writing this book was to say that no matter what kind of life you have lived and no matter where you come from that anyone can be successful. I think that her point of view is that if you think you can do something and you believe that you can then it is possible and you will be successful, though it does take some time. In my opinion there were various themes in Smile for the Camera.
I found that one of themes or one of the things th
Feb 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: teen-fiction, memoir
Kelle James tells how, at the age of 16, she escaped from a dysfunctional family and made a life for herself as a young model and actress in NYC in the late 70s.

Physical and emotional abuse suffered at the hands of her father; lewd, groping men encountered at every turn in the big city; a high-profile murder case in which she becomes embroiled -- it's a fascinating story, and Kelle is an endearing mix of naive vulnerability and tough girl temerity. She's savvy enough to avoid falling prey to pi
Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen)
The victim of an abusive father, country girl Kelle James sets out at the tender age of 16 for New York City to become a model. At 5’3”, Kelle was told that she was too short to model and would never find work in New York City. Kelle got her first big break in modeling when she went to work for Buddy and Melanie, co-owners of a modeling agency called My Fair Lady. Slowly the go-sees paid off and Kelle gained a fair amount of success. Eventually she was able to afford her own studio apartment--a ...more
Feb 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 111
James' writing style is lacking. Her wording and sentence structure is a little too basic and oversimplified. And she's redundant a lot of times as well, writing things like: "He laughed. He thought that was funny."

As for the story itself...I wanna go a bit easy since this was a memoir, but I did have a lot of issues with it. I get that Kelle LOOKS young for her age, but she's also a sixteen year old girl and should have the mentality of a sixteen year old girl. Throughout the entire book she ha
Magic Shop
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of memoirs about escaping and finding your dreams.
Recommended to Magic Shop by:, public library.

It's been a long time since I read a memoir, so when I saw this at the library I decided it was time to read another one. I really liked this book!!! It was interesting and sooo inspirational. The stuff that happened and the events that led up to the ending of Kelle's life was so good and sometimes I forgot this this is a memoir and that this actually happened to a girl who lived through it all and write this book so many people could read it and feel inspired. I loved Kelle
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Kelle James ran away from an abusive home at the age of fifteen to the best place she could think of - New York City. She was going to be a model, rich, famous, and she was going to find people who treated her right. She had no idea what was in store for her and within three days she was homeless and broke. What follows is her exceptional story of trying to make it on her own with nothing to her n ...more