Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

Summary (from Goodreads):
From the fantastic author of The Lonely Hearts Club and Prom & Prejudice comes a story of all the drama and comedy of four friends who grow into themselves at a performing arts high school.

Emme, Sophie, Ethan, and Carter are seniors at a performing arts school, getting ready for their Senior Showcase recital, where the pressure is on to appeal to colleges, dance academies, and professionals in show business. For Sophie, a singer, it's been great to be friends with Emme, who composes songs for her, and to date Carter, soap opera heartthrob who gets plenty of press coverage. Emme and Ethan have been in a band together through all four years of school, but wonder if they could be more than just friends and bandmates. Carter has been acting since he was a baby, and isn't sure how to admit that he'd rather paint than perform. The Senior Showcase is going to make or break each of the four, in a funny, touching, spectacular finale that only Elizabeth Eulberg could perform.
This is my first Elizabeth Eulberg book. I have heard/read wonderful things both about her writing and about her as a person. I have been reading a lot of YA contemporaries lately. And I’ve been noticing a trend: a lot of them end with an important lesson learned. And pretty much all of the ones I’ve read recently end with if not the happiest ending ever, at least an ending loaded with closure.
And sometimes that’s what I want to read. I like people getting closure, even though this not necessarily realistic. And I certainly am not one to complain about a happy ending. I just kind of think the best YA contemporaries are the ones that do this “lesson learned” thing without being too preachy and or too cliché. And while I super enjoyed reading Take a Bow, I kind of found it to be rather cliché.
I did read it in one sitting (pretty much 2 hours, this morning). So I was into the story. It was dramatastic. And I wanted to see who would end up with who. And who would get into the senior showcase. And who would get into Julliard. And Eulberg definitely has the drama thing in the bag!
I also loved getting to see the competitive side of high school. I feel like pretty much all of the other YA contemporaries that deal with competition in high school, either involve competition in something supernatural, something athletic, or something about snagging a guy. I don’t really recall ever reading about students competing artistically or even academically, which is kind of sad. Because not all competition happens on the track, or the football field, or in the locker room. My classmates and I were rather competitive academically (granted I was in an honors program), but still. It’s nice seeing a different kind of competition in YA.
That being said, all the lessons learned in this book about which friends you can trust, being confident in yourself, listening to those who care about you, etc. are all things I have read about a million and one times, and I was kind of hoping to see different kinds of problems with this different kind of competition and setting. And if I couldn’t get different problems, then I’d at least expect different ways of handling, solving, and even experiencing the problems than what I have seen before. But nothing was really that different.
The most redeemable character is Emme, the one character that doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone else, yet nothing about her surprised me. I felt like I already met her before. She was kind of like a mixture of Julia Stiles in Save the Last Dance, Bella in Twilight, the main character in Coyote Ugly, and a bunch of different main characters by Sarah Dessen combined. I wanted to like Ethan because he mostly was a good friend. But, I never really got over his cheating on his last girlfriend so many times. And he was not as redeemable to me as he should have been. Sophie is evil incarnate and I kind of wanted her to have more closure than she did. If every other character is already getting their life lessons out of the way at the same time, and resolving things, couldn’t the bad character have learned something too? I’d like it to be all or nothing, I guess. Couldn’t she have taken something away from the past year?
I actually think my favorite character was Carter, the ex-star. I loved that he finally realized that the reason he was so unhappy was because of himself, and no one else. I think his lesson was the most unique out of the four. And I love how he came to this conclusion with the help of one decent person, Emme.
The drama was addictive. The setting was lots of fun. The competition was intense and refreshing in a way. The characters and the problems were a little too cliché for my tastes. And I think the book could have been a lot stronger with more interesting characters like Carter. This gets a 7/10.

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