Author: E. Lockhart (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks)
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Two theater-mad, self-invented fabulositon Ohio teenagers. One boy, one girl. One gay, one straight. One black, one white. And SUMMER DRAMA CAMP. It’s a season of hormones, gold lame, hissy fits, jazz hands, song and dance, true love, and unitards that will determine their future –and test their friendship.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this book. I love E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver quartet, was a unsatisfied with her The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and decided to pick up her latest, We Were Liars, when the hype had died down (ie, I’m still waiting). This book started off a bit shaky, but once I got into it, I really started enjoying it.
The main reason the beginning was rocky was because I didn’t like the protagonist, Sadye. In fact, she inspired my recent post about my flip-flopping feelings about unlikeable protagonists. Sadye can be quite judgmental of people, and that really rubbed me the wrong way, but there’s a big difference between her and many judgmental protagonists: she knows she’s judgmental and can be petty and such, and it tears her up, but she does it anyway because she’s still human. Once I was able to connect with those feelings, she really began to grow on me, but the beginning was difficult because I didn’t have that connection yet. I was also a bit disappointed that the diversity promised in the summary – “one gay, one straight” and “one black, one white” applied to the same people – so, Sayde is white and straight, while her best friend, Demi, is black and gay. It would have been nice if it was mixed up more and the protagonist got some diversity, but alas, that wasn’t the case.
Sadye and Demi are at a summer drama camp, so much of the book focuses on that summer and how it changes both of them. In the beginning, there are also a lot of flashbacks to build up their friendship, which kind of pulled me out of the story, but otherwise the focus was on the drama inside and outside of the plays being performed.
I already talked about Sadye a bit, but I’ll say a little more – not only did I begin to connect with her, but I was really rooting for her, especially when she was trying to fight for a voice when everyone seemed determined to push her down. Demi was a bit more of an enigma, and I wish his character had been developed a bit more, while I would have also liked to see more from the secondary characters.
As I mentioned, Demi is both gay and black, and while it almost feels like tokenism at times, race and how it affects Sadye and Demi differently is addressed every once in a while. Sadye also has a deaf mother, which would have been nice to see more of (but since she’s in New York for the summer while her mother is back in Ohio, it’s understandable). I really appreciated when someone pointed out to Sadye that she’s bilingual since she’s fluent in American Sign Language – it’s nice to see the language being acknowledge as an actual language that takes work to understand.
The Adult Situation
Since they’re at camp, there are adults running things, but the teenagers are mostly on their own. Most of the adults didn’t seem very well-developed, but I suppose they aren’t the focus in this story.
*shrugs* I didn’t really care for the romance – the love interest is fine, but it seemed like there was too much drama. I prefered Demi’s romance, but since he wasn’t the protagonist, it was more in the background. I think that the story would have been fine without the romance, or at least less romantic drama.
By the end, I was definitely enjoying the story and was sad to see it end. The ending was ambiguous and open-ended enough that I certainly wouldn’t mind a companion book to get a peek into what’s going on in Sadye and Demi’s lives.
I had some problems with this book, especially at the beginning, but ultimately I really did enjoy it and am happy to find a Lockhart book other than the Ruby Oliver quartet that I like!