Harcourt, 2006 (1986)
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Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto
dèle Geras superbly captures the feel of putting on a play in
. High-schooler Mel Herbert has nothing do to over summer break, so her mom suggests that she try out for a production of Anton Chekhov's
being staged entirely with teenagers at the local regional theatre. Once Mel reads the play, she falls in love with it and is excited to be cast even though she does not get the part she wanted. While the play is being rehearsed onstage, much drama also unfolds backstage: the director breaks up with the designer to date one of the leads, another of the three leads is torn between two boys, and Mel finds herself falling in love for the first time in her life.
hile the plot is predictable, Geras makes up for it by perfectly re-creating the ambience of putting on a play with high-schoolers. As a director who has now been running a teen theatre company for four seasons, I myself can attest that there is always greater drama happening offstage than any playwright could ever script onstage. Not only is the amount of offstage theatrics in the novel realistic, but so are the moments of nervousness and energy that the whole cast feels. Also, the rehearsal process is very true-to-life, with no one ready to be off-book (without scripts onstage) on the set date and everything going so wrong the week of the show that no one believes it will actually go off without a hitch.
side from capturing the emotions and events common in theatre, Geras has created many complex characters, causing the lines between friends and rivals to be blurred. Unlike many teen romances, the enemy does not get her comeuppance at the end, nor does she turn out to be a really good person – she just is herself, good and bad. This adds to the realism with which Geras greatly imbues her story. The one downside is that the book was originally published in 1986, causing a few passages to be dated. However, these references are just minor nuisances here and there that are quickly overshadowed by the solidness of Geras' writing.
is the perfect young adult novel for anyone involved in, or interested in theatre.
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