I was a behind the scenes gal when it came to high school theater, but I still have many happy memories tied to our musical productions. As a proud member of the stage crew for four years, I was able to identify with the closeness and camaraderie that comes from putting on a show together.
The following are three excellent YA novels that stand on their own merit, but have something just a little extra special if you are or were a high school theater geek.
Intermission left me breathless in the best way. My internal book-rating system includes a heart-clench level, and this book made that level explode off of the charts. I had to fight off tears while reading in the waiting room of my daughter’s ballet class.
This beautifully-written, gut-wrenching story is not only a touching, tender, and chaste love story, but an examination of obedience, an exploration of faith, and God’s magnificent plans for our lives – which may not follow our plans or our timelines.
The injustice Faith suffers will break your heart. Her growth both in virtue and courage will make you cheer. And God’s tender mercy towards her and Noah will leave you with a song in your heart whether you’re a musical theater buff or not.
Angelhood offers important messages about hope and regret through the first-person account of 17-year-old Nanette, who, in the first chapter, puts a gun to her head and pulls the trigger. From there she embarks on her “angelhood.”
Despite the name, the body-less souls, and the acquisition of wings, the period of “angelhood” bears more resemblance to purgatory than angelic life. In order to gain her own redemption, Nanette is assigned a charge whom she must prevent from making the same fatal mistake she did in taking her own life.
Nanette shadows a friendless, angsty poet named Vera, whose mother has succumbed to breast cancer. Despite Nanette’s frustration with Vera’s anti-social, “loser” ways, she takes her task seriously and struggles to find means to influence Vera’s behavior and help her see the wonderful possibilities around her.
Throughout the novel, Nanette and other angels, including her mentor of sorts, Warren, engage in spiritual warfare in defense of their charges and their own journey towards sainthood. Darkness and evil tempt and taunt, eager to draw souls to their eternal torment.
Interspersed with the action are Nanette’s memories – both those leading up to her suicide and happy memories with her sister, mother, and fellow theater geeks. Not only does concentrating on positive memories help her to grown in grace, it also enables her to see clearly the rashness of her life-ending decision.
While Nanette had seen death as an escape from her various troubles, she now realizes that not only has peace eluded, her but her absence has had profound effects on her family members as well. Her perspective matures and broadens, allowing her to see hope where in the past she felt despair and to recognize, in theater terms, that comedy and tragedy exist side by side.
There are several twists, turns, and revelations along the way to maintain tension and keep the reader engaged.
In the years following the suicide of a friend’s 15-year-old son (also by gun), I’ve become hypersensitive to its frequent portrayal in media. While its depiction here made me uncomfortable, the overriding, hopeful message integrated so seamlessly into Nanette’s memories and experiences convinced me of its valuable message for teens in particular, who think their life isn’t worth living and the world would be better off without them.
I listened to Angelhood on audiobook, which opens me to distraction more than reading print does. It can also be a challenge to hear over the noise level and kid interruptions in my home. I did, however, enjoy the narration, which fit Nanette’s voice well.
Leslea Wahl has done it again – another great book custom-tailored to teens (teen girls in particular). I’m always a little put-off by present tense narration, but I quickly grew to enjoy Josie’s voice.
Great writing peppered with humor and insight, the author captures the human tendency to hyperfocus on our own problems that can be part and parcel of the teen years.
Take a mortifying yet hardly life-threatening problem, add an alluring backdrop of sunshine, sand, and an attractive guy, and watch Josie’s self-preoccupation melt away as she forges relationships with those outside her narrow Minnesota high school circle.
Her summer escape is populated by people of different ages, races, and backgrounds, and not everyone – even those she thinks she knows – is what they seem.
There’s a nice little mystery that keeps the story moving, but the most touching moments involve Josie’s self-discovery, the softening of her heart, and, eventually, genuine romance with an upstanding guy and reconciliation with her mom.
Enjoyable for adults, highly recommended for teens. Bonus if you’re a fan of musical theater.