Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Not Your All-American Girl

Rosenberg, Madelyn and Shang, Wendy Wan-Long. Not Your All-American Girl
July 7th 2020 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by EdelweissPlus

N.B. This is a sequel to This is Just a Test, but can be read as a stand-alone.

In the 1980s Lauren, whose brother David just had his bar mitzvah, loves to sing, and is super excited to try out for her school's production of Shake It Up, a musical written by their driector, Mrs. Tyndall, set in the 1950s and sounding similar to Bye Bye Birdie. Lauren hopes to get the lead role of Brenda Sue, and thinks her audition goes much better than her best friend Tara's. Because Tara looks like the typical "all-American girl", however, she gets the part, and Mrs. Tyndall explains that it is because as actors, they don't want to take the audience out of the play but want the characters to be easy to believe. Lauren is not happy with Tara anyway-- everything seems easier for her, right down to her all important designer jeans that her parents provide for her but which Lauren has to fund by herself. Lauren doesn't tell her mother (who is thinking about going to law school), father, or grandmothers about this, but does take solace in the music of Patsy Klein. After hearing a song on the radio, Lauren calls in to ask about the singer and figures that she has found a Jewish country singer! Both of her grandmothers are supportive of her endeavors, and even David starts to spend time hanging around rehearsals, eventually becoming the hula hoop wrangler when Mrs. Tyndall doesn't want the actors to fool around with them. Lauren starts to realize that there are a lot of prejudices that she has to deal with every day, and it's important to speak up, even when it is uncomfortable for her. Will she and Tara be able to come to an understanding, and will Lauren be able to speak up when she experiences microaggressions?
Strengths: While I know that most tween readers won't pick up on this, my absolute favorite part of this book is the grandmothers! I love how they are friends who hang out and watch Star Search together despite the differences in their cultural backgrounds. They also have a bit of a rivalry when it comes to cooking and doing nice things for Lauren. Also, teaching the cat to use the commode? Brilliant! The play is nicely handled, and I enjoyed that David had a small part. Details of daily life in the 1980s, as well as some important history, is delivered well against this background.
Weaknesses: While I knew that this was set in the 1980s (loved the description of how to put in a banana clip!), it would have helped my students if this were specifically mentioned very early on. There are lots of excellent clues, but many readers don't pick up on them.
What I really think: This is a great story that is a lot of fun to read but also includes some very serious discussion about race relations, pointing out that these have been going on for a very long time. Definitely purchasing, since This is Just a Test has done very well in my library, and the cover on this is very appealing!

Just have to say that I was bothered by the movie Sixteen Candles even in 1984, when it came out. It's hard even for me to believe how racist and sexually inappropriate things were then, and I lived through them! I am so sorry that the authors had to experience prejudice, especially when they were teens.

I also watched a movie with Jane Curtin in it recently, Maybe Baby (1988) and was appalled that even though Curtin's character was a hugely successful business woman, she felt she needed to have a baby to be "fulfilled". Loved the movie for the fashions, hated the effect that these sorts of gender expectations had on my life!

No comments:

Post a Comment