Five teenagers live for their art in this coming-of-age story of achievement, ambition, and heartache.
LaMarche’s latest novel (Don't Fail Me Now, 2015, etc.), which chronicles the tribulations of a group of friends in their senior year at a prestigious New York arts conservatory, is a pleasing mix of Fame and Gossip Girl. Each character narrates a section, addressing it to the titular “you,” who changes depending on the narrator: Joy, the black ballerina and a passionate perfectionist terrified of failure; Liv, a Puerto Rican actress whose party-girl ways have tragic consequences; Ethan, the nerdy, white Russian immigrant’s son, a playwright with Broadway ambitions; Dave, a white teen celebrity desperate for a fresh start away from his mistakes in LA; and Diego, a Latino dancer for whom ballet is a ticket to a better life. The author knows her subject matter well, and she effectively captures the essence of teenagerhood, from the hormones and the slang to the heartbreak and paralyzing self-doubt. As in a Shakespeare play, everyone is in love with the wrong person, and it takes most of the novel and some dramatic events for everyone’s feelings to be sorted out correctly. Of the five storylines, Joy’s—in which she copes with body shaming and other indignities that have kept the rarefied world of ballet largely off-limits to black women—is the most compelling.
Given the current political climate, the characters’ struggles with the white establishment create a poignant and timely socially conscious narrative. (Fiction. 14-18)