E(mily) Prescott has clearly been to drama camp. She gets that part of the book right-on. The rest of the book is quite a disappointment, though. The...moreE(mily) Prescott has clearly been to drama camp. She gets that part of the book right-on. The rest of the book is quite a disappointment, though. The characters are flat; our narrator, Sadye, is set up to learn a lot through the people she meets, the criticisms she gets, and the experiences she has at drama camp, but she doesn't. She makes a grand sacrifice that gets her kicked out of camp, but not because she's really learned anything, except that her best friend, Demi, has more talent than she does. She returns to her boring small town and continues to be the same person she was before camp, although we don't really get any details about it. Nor do we get much closure for Sadye. We learn where the future is taking Demi (NYU), but all we know about Sadye is that she has a summer internship in New York City after she graduates high school. There being every indication that Sadye is reasonably intelligent, it felt odd that there was no discussion of where she wanted to go to college, or where she applied or was accepted, even though we learn about Demi's college-choice process.
Not that I could really bring myself to care that much about what happened to her. I never found her to be a compelling character. Although she has thoughts and ideas, too often they seemed to come from nowhere, and every time someone tried to tell her something or teach her something, she got resentful, and failed to come even close to apprehending the lesson (which is not to say she was always wrong, but just that her continued failure to get the point became annoying).
I think this story would have been much more interesting if told from Demi's point of view. Here we had a character with some actual talent, as well as substantial issues to face. He's a black, gay teenager who comes from a primarily white world with parents who only pretend to be ok with his sexual orientation. When he gets to camp, we're given hints that, although he's still a minority by far (we're told there are fewer than 10 black campers), he's pleased to be with people with whom he feels like he can be black (this is the topic of a very disappointing scene between Demi and Sadye where he tries to talk to her about how he feels that she's trying to deny the fact that he's black, and she tries to explain that it just wasn't important to her, and wasn't that better than acting like it's a big deal -- but like most of the rest of the book, that scene just fizzled into nothing). More importantly, though, he can truly "come out" for the first time. He forms a crush, gets betrayed, and finds love, all in the span of a few weeks. This is the story I would have enjoyed reading, along with the entertaining stories about rehearsals and the like.(less)
Aside from the fact that I can't really relate to the story of a teenage boy coming to terms with the fact that he's gay, I really enjoyed this book....moreAside from the fact that I can't really relate to the story of a teenage boy coming to terms with the fact that he's gay, I really enjoyed this book. LaRochelle divides the story about equally between Steven's growing realization that he's gay and his process of coming out to his friends and family. Although the first half of the book became a bit tiresome after a while, the second half of the book more than made up for it. LaRochelle writes Steven's coming out scenes with humor and sensitivity.(less)
My response: I can't claim to be shocked that this book was challenged, since it does deal with teenage girls questioning and discovering their sexuality, but as always I'm disappointed when people choose to bury their heads in the sand rather than accepting that people are different, and choosing to recognize a book that deals with real issues in a sensitive and realistic manner.
I thought that Johnson approached her subject matter in an interesting way. Rather than just focusing on the one character who winds up coming out, and her struggle to come to terms with her own sexuality, Johnson sets her story within a group of 3 girls. When one of the girls goes away for the summer before their senior year of high school, the other two find themselves in a "more than friends" situation. Johnson sympathetically relates the story of any two people who try to negotiate going from being friends to having a romantic relationship, and possibly back again. Teenagers can definitely relate to this story, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Added to that well-drawn story, Johnson also gives us the third girl in the triangle, who comes home from her summer away and finds herself in the middle of the complicated relationship of her two best friends, while at the same time dealing with issues surrounding her own new long-distance relationship.
One criticism I have is that the characters weren't all that well-drawn. I had trouble at the beginning distinguishing the three main characters, and even after I could remember who was who, they all seemed a little fuzzy around the edges. None of the secondary characters were particularly clear either. In a book that is largely character driven, I wanted to get a better sense of the characters outside of the particular conflicts they were facing.(less)
I give this book 3 stars because the language itself is quite lovely. The story, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired. Jesse is a fairly...moreI give this book 3 stars because the language itself is quite lovely. The story, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired. Jesse is a fairly standard teenage-girl-who-finally-learns-to-stand-up-for-herself-and-for-what's-right. She's a sympathetic character, but not a very interesting one. She seems like a dynamic character only because all the others are flat as pancakes (her parents don't so much grow as characters as just randomly start acting differently toward the end). Ultimately, though, it's hard to feel too much for Jesse, because she doesn't respond to her predicament in a believable way.
The story is set in a small town in northern England in the mid-70s (complete with some great descriptions of the clothes) and for that time and place, and what we know of her upbringing, Jesse takes her "predicament" far too easily in stride. We see very little internal struggle with her situation; the only real conflict in the story is how long she'll let things drag on. This does not make for very captivating reading.(less)
Maynard's premise in this book is an interesting one. Unfortunately, her efforts to be coy about that premise result only in heavy-handed foreshadowin...moreMaynard's premise in this book is an interesting one. Unfortunately, her efforts to be coy about that premise result only in heavy-handed foreshadowing that really leaves very little to the reader's imagination. Given how much she gives away, it seems that what was really important was not what the big secret was, but how the characters would react once they found out. That being the case, I wonder why Maynard chose to frustrate the reader by giving away almost the whole thing through less-than-subtle hints rather than just telling the reader what happened in the beginning and letting the story focus on the characters and how learning the truth changes (or doesn't change) their lives. There are a few details that are left unanswered until the big reveal near the end, but it wasn't enough to maintain any sort of narrative tension.
Once I got beyond the fact that there was no mystery where it seemed like there was supposed to be one, I was able to enjoy this book. Maynard's descriptions of her settings are beautiful, and I did find myself caring about the characters and how they would deal with finding out the truth. Unfortunately, the lovely prose does not make up for the narrative shortcomings.(less)