Release Date: April 1, 2012
Source: Copy provided by publisher for review
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.
While the topics addressed in this novel aren't exactly lighthearted, the writing itself isn't heavy, which makes Take a Bow a fun read. Overall, it's a well-written coming-of-age story. Although I would say that I enjoyed reading it, I don't think any of the characters stood out in a particularly significant way. I liked Emme's kindness, Ethan's journey to come to terms with what matters to him, Carter's journey of self-discovery, and I especially liked the dynamic of the members of the band (especially Jack and Ben, who added quite a bit of comic relief!) but no one stuck out as a very memorable character. Yes, the vicious resident user-and-abuser, Sophie, was a believable character, but she just wasn't that unique from any other antagonists. She was just mean and manipulative--there wasn't a personality quirk, uniquely snarky dialogue, or something huge about her past that will make her very memorable.
Don't get me wrong, it's well written and most of the main characters are alive and not 2D, but they just aren't very strong characters I'd definitely be able to point out if someone were to ask me for examples of favorite or eye-catching characters. They just seem like the ordinary--well-developed, but ordinary nonetheless--characters you'd find in a coming-of-age story.
I would like to expand briefly on the 'well-developed characters point' however; Sophie was quite a nasty piece of work! She maybe your typical antagonist, but man, was she a self-absorbed, unrepentant, manipulative girl! Ms. Eulberg certainly created a vicious villain (okay, that might be a bit strong, but she was horrid!) who had no conscience and was ready to use and abuse her few friends to get to the top! Sophie was definitely a believable character--she came alive on those pages so much that I wanted to slap her for her ruthless treatment of Emme!
There were points in the novel where I wanted to reach in and shake Emme! I was definitely rooting for her but wanted her to grow a backbone and stand up for herself! It was so frustrating to watch her let people (especially her "best friend") walk all over her and take advantage of her! Warning--mild spoiler alert! After a while it got tiresome to watch how predictable Emme could be, but the climax of her confronting the issue mostly made up for all of that frustration! She did a nice job at the end and I was definitely cheering the way the characters were! End spoiler alert.
I have never attended a performing arts school so I'm not sure how realistic Take a Bow is, but Ms. Eulberg did a great job creating a high-tension, high-pressure environment (which I'm sure performing arts high schools are!). There was a lot of intense competition between students to be on top, to nab spots, but I am very grateful the author did not take the excessively catty and melodramatic drama-infested route! The lack of those two characteristics (which I think I've had more than enough of for a while) really made this book that much more enjoyable. It made it easier to focus on each of the characters' journeys (which I believe is more important) instead of trying to keep track of who stole which person's lip gloss and who trashed their locker before an extremely important (and tear-filled, no doubt) audition. My favorite part about the arts-related setting was reading about Emme and the band performing! They're such a hilarious and dynamic group--it was a blast to both read about their performances and cheer them on during their struggles!
While I liked the switching view points and the differences in the writing styles for each character, I didn't find the plot all that imaginative. Carter's story ("who everyone wants me to be, but who I want to be") is one I'm afraid I've read about in some form or another countless times. But still, the chemistry between the characters, their interactions and how all of their parts tie in nicely with each other helped contribute nicely to the story!
Yes, it's not the most original story (plot or character-wise) but it is well-written and I enjoyed it very much! It doesn't drag at all, but the story is still well-developed and the author doesn't try to sell any of the characters short! It was a great and pretty easy read that I would recommend to those who are looking for something a little more fun!
Overall: 4.25 out of 5
Plot: 3 stars
Characters: 3.75 stars
Writing: 4 stars
Cover: 4.5 stars