Barbara Dee

Book - 2017

When Mattie is cast as Romeo in an eighth-grade play, she is confused to find herself increasingly attracted to Gemma, a new classmate who is playing Juliet.

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New York : Aladdin 2017.
First Aladdin hardcover edition
Physical Description
277 pages ; 22 cm
Main Author
Barbara Dee (author)
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

A star student falls for the lead actress of her school play in this welcome addition to the middle grade LGBTQ bookshelf. Mattie Monaghan is looking forward to her eighth grade production of Romeo and Juliet-as well as getting to know her new crush, Gemma. Mattie's friend Tessa has been to theater camp and bandies Shakespearean insults with gusto ("vile worm," "scurvy knaves"), while beautiful, British Gemma is a shoo-in for Juliet. Mattie revels in the Bard's words but is less confident in performing. When a classmate struggles as Romeo, Mattie is asked to step into the role, bringing her dizzyingly close to Gemma. Dee (Truth or Dare) thoughtfully dramatizes the intricate social performance of middle school, with its secret crushes and fierce rivalries. The book benefits from a memorable cast, though some of the students' analysis of the play feels forced. Mattie's narration is intimate and believable, and readers will be pleased to watch her grow from spectator to star. And although the ending is predictable, the tension holds. After all, even Romeo and Juliet's fates are sealed in the play's prologue. Ages 9-13. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-When it is announced that the eighth grade play will be Romeo and Juliet, Mattie and her friends shift from obsessing over boys to auditioning for the show. The class's best-looking lad, Liam, is chosen as Romeo, even though he's a clod with the lines. British-born Gemma is Juliet, naturally. Mattie's interest in Gemma intensifies, and eventually Mattie admits the crush to herself. Mattie is recast as Romeo when Liam drops out. Once the kissing scenes begin, Mattie passes out from nerves, but by opening night, she and Gemma are a brilliant, star-crossed couple. This is a mostly breezy young teen romance: the besties are supportive, the boys are pawns, the mean girls are nasty, the school cafeteria is a stage, etc. It is also a sweet coming-out story for junior high readers. The clever Shakespeare content is a bonus, and Dee deserves praise for a strong example of gender-blind casting. The charming cover art accurately portrays the spirit of the novel. VERDICT A fine choice for middle school libraries in need of accessible LGBTQ stories, and a great option for students reading or performing Romeo and Juliet.-Elaine Fultz, Madison Jr. Sr. High School, Middletown, OH © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A sweet story of young love amid middle school theatrics. Matilda, who goes by Mattie, is an exceptionally thoughtful white teen who at times drives her closest friends nuts with her uncertainty and need for time to think. However, her pensiveness serves her well as the whole eighth grade, under the guidance of her favorite teacher, Mr. Torres, sets out to stage a production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Mattie truly connects with the play, so when the male lead is injured and backs out of the production, she is a natural choice for assuming the trousers role as Romeo. The only potential problem is her nerves, since she has begun to develop more-than-friends feelings for her Juliet, the charismatic white English transplant Gemma. Mattie's genuine inflections and stream-of-consciousness narrative resonate well with the early-adolescent experience. Mattie is fortunate to have a very supportive family, loyal friends, and a mentor teacher as well as diverse classmates that are perhaps more tolerant than most middle schoolers realistically are. This idealized, benevolent society lends a very rosy tinge to a tale of questioning one's burgeoning sexuality, which may feel false to some older or more jaded readers. Nevertheless, readers cannot help but root for Mattie as she discovers bravery she never gave herself credit for, both onstage and in life. While the plot revolves around Shakespeare's famous tragedy, this story is far from one. (Fiction. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.