Monday, March 28, 2011

Review - Rival

Sara Bennett Wealer
The rich and popular Brooke Dempsey and shy outcast Kathryn Pease have two things in common: their love of music and the turbulent, complicated history they share. A year ago they had a close friendship that unravelled and spiraled out of control, resulting in a huge rift between the two. Now  in their senior year of high school, there's a bitter rivalry that sits between them, prompted by hurt feelings on both sides and spurred on by the important Blackmore singing competition that both girls are determined to win. As the year progresses and the competition draws closer, both girls are dealing with their own personal issues as well as bruised feelings in the aftermath of all that happened between them the year before.

Both Kathryn and Brooke are well-developed main characters who can hold their own; the two are perfectly balanced and the dual narrative of the story allows us to see both of their viewpoints. Kathryn, the outcast and loner, spent her Junior year trying to be popular and is spending her senior year dealing with all that happened after. Brooke, on the other hand, inherited the position of Miss Popularity from her older brothers, both of whom are high school legends. For her, popularity and all that goes with it is something she doesn't want anymore and this conflict - between who she sees herself as and who her friends see her as - comes through in a great way.

There's a theme of envy and admiration here that shines though and feels so real. Each of these girls envies something about the other's life: Kathryn wants Brooke's popularity and money while Brooke wishes she were as pretty as Kathryn and had her stable family life. These jealousies are written perfectly and ring so true, as is the rift that occurs and tears them apart. This is such a bittersweet story because of the fact that it is so incredibly authentic. It explores every aspect of friendship - the before, during, after, and after-after - in a very real way. So real it hurts.

This isn't a book about a singing competition. Or, it is but it's not. Though the story is set up around Kathryn and Brooke's aspirations and the approaching Blackmore competition, it's really a story very tightly focused on the hurt feelings both girls have as a result of their imploded friendship. Though there are very few scenes where the girls actually interact, you wouldn't know it unless you paid attention because the fact is that both of their stories are all about the other person. They're focused on each other in that way that you can become focused on someone who was once such a huge part of your life and then just... isn't anymore.

Aside from each other, Brooke and Kathryn both had very involved lives and worries. I've been wanting to find a book that explores the father-daughter dynamic for a while now and while that definitely wasn't the focus of Brooke's story, her absentee father does play a big role in her story as well as her as a character. As for Kathryn, her worries over money for college were, I felt, very realistic and this, along with the glimpses we get of her backstory pre-Brooke, helped to color the parts of her personality that were harder for me to relate to (for instance, her quasi-obsession with being popular even at the expense of her oldest and best friend).

I loved this book. It's well-written with an amazing cast of characters, completely bittersweet, and all too relatable for me. I said this on Twitter earlier but now I'm saying it here: If you're a girl and you've ever had a friend ever, this is the book you should read. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow that's quite a recommendation! I'll definitely check this book out - thanks.

    Glad you're back book blogging :)