In her second novel, Rachel Cline tries to unveil simultaneously the complexities of female friendship and ambition in Hollywood — familiar territory for the author, who worked as a screenwriter in Los Angeles for almost a decade before writing her lauded first novel, What to Keep.

Meek, mousy film editor Annabeth Jenson has come to Los Angeles from Minnesota to pursue her passion for films and escape her troubled past. After months of unemployment and a hasty move-in with her angsty boyfriend, she meets magnetic indie-film director Laura Katz. The two spark an improbable friendship that leads to collaboration on Katz's second feature, Trouble Doll, a film about an aspiring actress from the Midwest who comes to Hollywood and ultimately ends up an anonymous corpse. But Annabeth soon goes from confidante to acolyte as power struggles emerge and dynamics shift, climaxing in a messy betrayal.

Cline exposes the dog-eat-dog reality behind the fantasy of Hollywood, but My Liar lacks its bite. Annabeth is excruciatingly insecure, and her insipidness infuses the novel. While she is forced to deal with her disillusionment and confront the reality she has been denying, her vague resolutions arrive too late in the story to save her relationships — or the reader's attention. Like its main character, the book's efforts to arrive at revelation are noble but unremarkable.

MY LIAR | By RACHEL CLINE | Random House | 272 pages | $23 hardcover

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