Author: Sara Bennett Wealer
Release Date: February 15, 2011
Number of Pages: 336
Source of Book: Won from The Contemps Challenge
Author's Website: www.sarabennettwealer.com
What if your worst enemy turned out to be the best friend you ever had?
Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.
Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.
The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.
As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?
All right Gleeks - this is your book (and you've got two more weeks until a new Glee episode - just enough time to read RIVAL!) Before I start raving too much about the book, I just have to share that I read this book on a plane flight, and I am now typing my review based from my notes on airplane beverage napkins as I didn't have any paper with me (what was I thinking?!)
I ADORE this book about the roots of friendship, and popularity, and the fleetingness of acceptance in the high school social hierarchy. It's about figuring out what one really wants, what's really important, and who really matters. Both of the main characters have voices that were so true and honest. It was refreshing that they were both well-rounded and the focus wasn't on boys (although boys do, of course, play a secondary role to the main point of the story-this is YA after all!), but it was refreshing that wasn't the main focus - it was about this friendship, why it started, why it failed, and if it could be saved. It was about girls and the pressures they feel about friendships and rivalries, even if they don't want them that way. It was one of the most interesting contemporary books that I have read recently and the vocal music piece added another level of sophistication to it and heightened the drama.
I love that we get to hear the story from both Brooke and Kathryn's points-of-view in alternating chapters, and that it alternates sections from senior year and junior year (when it all went down). It was a very effective way to tell this story (instead of strictly chronologically) to leave the reader in a bit of suspense as to why these two girls are such staunch rival - and then to find out that they were friends at one point. Tension built throughout the story as we get clues and eventually get the full story of what happened and what turned these two girls into friends and rivals. The big competition looming at the end adds the perfect prize at the end. Wealer writes in a straight-forward and engaging style as we see into the minds of both girls and how they perceive the same situations so differently. One of my favorite lines from this book highlights the writing style and voice and gets to one of the themes in this book about rivalry, "But I don't shatter; I'm not made of glass. Anyway, the parts that break aren't on the outside."
Ultimately, this book shows that sometimes you really don't know someone else, nor can you see yourself clearly as others do. It's a fascinating look into perceptions and intentions and misperceptions and true desires. This is a fantastic new addition to the contemporary genre - and a great YA book! I highly recommend getting this one - it will be a quick read because you won't want to stop until you find out who wins the big competition at the end.
4.5 STARS for RIVAL