By Una LaMarche
Reviewed by SA
Gosh, why is it that October becomes insanely hectic? I barely had time to read this week, but when I picked up this book, I realized I could not put it down. It was only when I finished it that I realized it was now midnight, and that there were tears streaming down my eyes. Gosh, I had no idea what to expect from this book, and I certainly didn’t expect it to stomp on my heart so painfully. Of course I loved it.
In the high-pressure months leading up to the performance that will determine their futures, a group of friends at a performing arts school look back on when an unexpected event upended everything. The moment that changed their relationships, their friendships, and their lives forever.
At a prestigious New York City performing arts school, five friends connect over one dream of stardom. But for Joy, Diego, Liv, Ethan and Dave, that dream falters under the pressure of second-semester, Senior year. Ambitions shift and change, new emotions rush to the surface, and a sense of urgency pulses between them: Their time together is running out.
Diego hopes to get out of the friend zone. Liv wants to escape, losing herself in fantasies of the new guy. Ethan conspires to turn his muse into his girlfriend. Dave pines for the drama queen. And if Joy doesn’t open her eyes, she could lose the love that’s been in front of her all along.
In a prestigious, and very demanding, New York performing arts school, five teens are getting ready for the summer showcase, where they will perform in front of an audience made up of all the bigwigs of the industry. It’s a do or die moment. The pressure is on, and it’s up full force. Probably not the best time to deal with feelings.
Joy is a ballerina. Joy is also black. She knows the odds: she calculated them herself, and being a black ballerina with a national company is not going to be easy. She’ll do anything to perform her best at the summer showcase, even if it means dancing on an injured ankle. Diego is also a dancer of color, who’s been crushing hard on Joy ever since day one. He’s in the friendzone, and is madly in love with her.
Liv is an actor, who deals with the stress by mixing some prescriptions… pain killers that were never meant for her. Ethan Is a playwright, who writes his obsession over Liv into a script he wants her to perform. And then there’s Dave, a successful child actor who’s grown and has a lot on his plate. Their five lives are linked, for better or for worse.
The characters al have their own portion of the story, their own POV. But what’s interesting, is that it’s always addressed to You: you as in the person they have been pining over, you as in the one they love. All this under the ominous countdown to the summer showcase – unless it’s counting down to something else entirely.
I loved this novel. Joy and Diego’s pieces were by far my favorite, and I loved the evolution of their relationship. Their love is special, and beautiful, and everything you want out of young love. Even though I know nothing about ballet, watching it performed through their characters transported me, and gave me a deeper appreciation for the art. There were also cute little hints about Hamilton or fame that made me chuckle.
But it was the ending that had me in tears. I could not believe it. At all. And I think that was the point. I will not say it here, as I do not want to spoil it for anyone, but it is incredible relevant for today. It made me sad. It made me angry. It hit me like a bullet train.
Definitely a book to put on your TBR pile… A fantastic read that will hook you from page one. Expected publication: November 1st 2016 by Razorbill. Thank you Penguin First to Read for giving me a copy.