Saturday, May 26, 2012
Take a Bow
YA Contemporary Performing Arts
After loving The Lonely Hearts Club and Prom & Prejudice, I knew I would be reading Eulberg's next book. Then I saw a ton of positive reviews of this, which got me even more excited! Unfortunately while there were some things I liked, there was something that really annoyed me (coughethancough).
Let's start with what attracted me to this book besides previous experience with the author's writing. The setting is a performing arts high school, a personal favorite setting of mine. I love reading about all of these kids with tremendous talent and potential and this was no exception. The scenes where the kids were practicing or performing were among my favorite. I also liked reading about the competition and nerves behind the scenes even though it caused me anxiety; it was a pressure cooker situation.
Then we have the characters. By far, my favorite was Carter, former child-star who still has his fans but is longing to leave acting. As he rethinks his life and makes big choices, he retained a down-to-earth sweetness that made his perspective very enjoyable. Next up is Sophie, the aspiring star who sings. Ever since she was a child, Sophie has been driven, keeping an eye out for her big break that will launch her to stardom. But life at school has been hard for Sophie. Although she has managed to date Carter for two years, she sees herself increasingly not getting the roles she thinks she deserves. To Sophie, this pushes her harder; to the reader, we see her stabbing people in the back and trampling anyone she finds in her way. She is not nice and I know a lot of other reviewers have not liked her. But I felt really bad for Sophie, seeing her pain at her ambitions going unfulfilled but without the maturity to examine herself critically.
The other two characters also need some help, in my opinion. Ethan is a self-sabotaging idiot. For the past few years, he was involved in a destructive cycle of cheating on his girlfriend, writing heartbreaking songs to win her back, and on and on. This was exacerbated by his drinking problem and his unresolved feelings for his best friend Emme. Honestly-I hated Ethan. I cannot handle the self-destruction in his character and I did not see him redeeming himself. I am also worried that his drinking problem was basically tossed aside and ignored; I would have loved some resolution there.
Emme is a much more palatable character but her soft spot for Ethan made me lower my opinion of her. Emme is basically the main character with important relationships with all three of the other characters and she undergoes the biggest transformation from shy wallflower to singer, songwriter, and face-melting guitarist. If she could have held strong to her conviction to not involve herself with Ethan, preserving merely a friendship with him, I would have liked her a lot more. But since she lowered herself, I end with disappointment.
I was also disappointed with the writing. By that I mean, it felt very different from the other two books I've read. Whereas I felt very clearly that they came from the same writer, this seemed like a radical departure and it was not one I liked. And the four perspectives and the short length (not even 300 pages) really impaired my ability to connect with any of the characters.
So I think I would sum up my problems with this book as 1. Too many characters for the length, leading to superficiality on some parts and 2. Deep hatred for the handling of the Ethan character.
Overall: I love swirly scripts for titles and choosing to show Emme was a wise decision.