Thursday, April 01, 2021


Asher, Diana Harmon. Upstaged
March 16th 2021 by Amulet Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Shira is a really good singer, but she is nervous about performing in front of others. When her best friend Cassie wants to try out for the middle school production of The Music Man, Shira goes along to support her. Cassie ends up with a part in the chorus, but Shira has a larger role-- as part of the barber shop quartet. After some people make snide comments to her about being chosen for a boy's role, she debates not doing the play, but her younger sister, Cassie, and teacher Mr. Hoover convince her that she would do a good job. Popular mean girl Monica gets the role of Marian the librarian, and enthusiastic, friendly theater geek Paul plays Harold Hill. Monica frequently goes to auditions in the city, and Mr. Hoover thinks there should be an understudy for her part, although the "celebrity director", Ms. Channing, (who is also Monica's acting coach) doesn't think this is necessary. Shira enjoys working on the play, and finds Paul fun to be around. She even gets to spend some time with her crush, Drew, who is decently nice to her. Monica is not very nice to the other cast members, and when her expensive eyeliner is used to write a message on her locker, her costume is ordered in the incorrect size, and her script is mangled in a paper cutter, Monica focuses suspicion falls on Paul, whom she doesn't think is quite up to snuff to play opposite her. Paul is "benched" by the principal for a while. The play goes on, and Shira starts to feel a little more comfortable with performing. On the night of the production, something goes badly wrong. Will Shira be able to overcome her fears to save the day?
Strengths: While Shira is anxious and nervous about performing, she still manages to get up and perform with the support of her family and friends. There is a definite trend for showcasing anxiety, but the books are more interesting when the plot focuses more on the characters accomplishing things despite this. The interactions between the cast members are fun, and Paul in particular is a well-drawn character. There are just enough details about putting on a play, and I love that it is based on the author's own experience of being in the Barbershop quartet when she was in school! My school put on The Music Man last year, so it's definitely a play that is still being done!
Weaknesses: It seems unlikely that Monica and her mother would hold such power over the principal, or that Monica would get away with being so mean. I've been seeing a lot more of this sort of unrealistic situation in books. They do add a lot more excitement to books, and probably bother young readers a lot less than they bother me. 
What I really think: This is another good book about a school play being performed and a good addition to books like Federle's Better Nate Than Ever, Mustaches for Maddie, Freeman's Noah McNicol and the Backstage Ghost, Zadoff's My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies, or Young's The Prettiest. (In which The Music Man is also the play being performed!)

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