It’s not getting into acting school that’s hard, apparently, it’s figuring out what to do when you’re kicked out.
In All Things Considered contributor Acito’s first novel (How I Paid for College, 2004), fresh-out-of-Jersey drama kid Edward Zanni was on his way to Juilliard, stars in his eyes. When this follow-up novel opens in 1986, Edward is getting booted from paradise for being too “ ‘jazz hands’ for Juilliard.” With his confidence in his acting abilities at a historic low, Edward makes ends meet the best he can—his schemes include entertaining at “bash mitzvahs” and finagling a not-quite-legal rent-controlled apartment—all the while trying not to kill himself with jealousy as his acquaintances become more successful than he. Things go from desperate to worse pretty quickly, and Edward’s confused bisexuality isn’t helping him out in the dating department, either (his semi-straight crush isn’t interested, and the only guy coming onto him is not his type). Acito again surrounds Edward with his tight-knit and eccentric (though fortunately not too-sitcom-zany) band of high-school friends, which makes the various money-making hijinks speed by. The mid-’80s struggling-Manhattan-actor-setting is organically relayed, with the Reagan presidency and the specter of AIDS present in the background. While Acito maintains his zippy smarts throughout, he occasionally resorts to YA-fiction narration (“I will not play a minor role in my own life”) as the novel roller-skates to the busy conclusion, pom-poms flying.
Exuberant, but less impressive than Acito’s debut.