Budding actor Rebecca Rivers knows who she is and where she’s going; she’s also shadowed by an old, unearned middle school reputation that refuses to die.
Getting the lead in every school play, the only actor exempt from the director’s caustic criticism, Rebecca knows she’s envied by some, but her theater cohort—the Essential Five —has her back, right? But as rumors based on her past resurface and affect her intensifying relationship with Charlie Lamb, she finds there’s a lot she doesn’t know about her fellow thespian overachievers. Tensions mount as floating rumors accrete to and harm a faculty member. Meanwhile, getting to know her estranged sister, Mary, prompts Rebecca to question her own assumptions and their provenance. In the standard-issue teen-lit template—present-tense narration, narrowly focused time span, text larded with brand names and cultural icons—the past is an afterthought, viewed in brief flashbacks. Here, time passes, opening up new narrative possibilities. Rebecca’s understanding of those around her and her place among them evolves over several years, giving both her and readers access to retrospective wisdom. Her world’s sculpted by contemporary culture’s relentless pace, lack of privacy, and unprecedented need—and ability—to label and respond to every transient permutation of human behavior. Theater’s the single constant in Rebecca’s life, a prism through which to interpret life for others and for herself.
Original and intriguing; a powerful debut. (Fiction. 14-18)