My primary reading is Young Adult, so since this is a true kid’s book, I’ll list it as my “YOUTHS!” entry for cbr11bingo.
Kelly and her two besties Lisa and Rebecca are just starting junior high. And they’re determined to launch themselves into popularity, since sixth graders are bottom of the totem pole. Kelly talks her friends into auditioning for the drama production of Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, sure this will introduce them to the upperclassmen who will secure their place in the upper echelon of the school. But when Kelly turns out to be a terrible, shy singer, and Lisa and Rebecca get cast when she doesn’t, the school year starts to look very different. Luckily, she has some artistic talent she got from her beloved Gram, and so she gets a second chance in drama on the set design team. Unfortunately, the 9th grader in charge doesn’t want to hear her contributions. Eventually, she finds her place on the light crew, and there she really, well, shines! But can she save her friendship with Lisa, who has become quite the diva? And can she hide her theatre antics from her mom, who’s resented the theatre since Gram left her family to enjoy a life on the stage?
I ordered this on Amazon after I suddenly remembered it as a childhood favorite during a library conference. I realized it had really influenced a lot of my life! Theatre, fairy tales, jealousy amongst friendships – it was all very prophetic. So I was excited to pick it back up. And mostly, it held up to how I remembered it! The most fun bits are the ones having to do with the show. I love that Auch chose a real musical for the school to mount (the stepsister’s names are right from the R&H play and it’s very clear what songs they’re rehearsing even though she never names them right out). I did the same show in junior high and it was fun to reread this with that history. And I love that Kelly finds her place as a techie and really loves it. Auch’s descriptions of her talent at set painting and transformative powers of light design are perfect (and what really stuck in my head through the years). I laughed when I reread it, remembering how this book was the first time I learned what gels are in lights, and how I thought they were actually gel.
The friendship drama wasn’t as engaging as when I was a kid, and Kelly is sort of immature on the reread. But she was also 11, and frankly her at 11 felt very me at 11 (and that can be hard to face). The family drama is also very awkwardly written. The mom and Gram need a lot of family therapy. But I’m really glad I bought a copy and look forward to revisiting it again down the line.