by Una LaMarche
To be published by Razorbill
on November 1, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads: At a prestigious New York City performing arts school, five friends connect over one dream of stardom. But for Joy, Diego, Liv, Ethan and Dave, that dream falters under the pressure of second-semester, Senior year. Ambitions shift and change, new emotions rush to the surface, and a sense of urgency pulses between them: Their time together is running out. Diego hopes to get out of the friend zone. Liv wants to escape, losing herself in fantasies of the new guy. Ethan conspires to turn his muse into his girlfriend. Dave pines for the drama queen. And if Joy doesn’t open her eyes, she could lose the love that’s been in front of her all along.
My take: Overall, I really enjoyed You in Five Acts. It's a combination of a Fame-inspired story (a group of high school seniors who attend an insanely competitive NYC arts school and are preparing for their "senior showcase") and an issue book.
The book's narrative structure is a bit experimental and may not be for every reader. As the title would suggest, the book is narrated by five different characters. Normally, that's about three too many narrators for me, but I still thought it worked. Here's the unusual part: each character narrates in first person, but his/her narration is telling the story to another of the characters (a "you") so there's an unusual blend of "I" and "you" in each section. It took me few pages to figure who out the "you" was in each character's narration but then I had it down.
I'm old, but do I spend a lot of time around teenagers, and I think that the author must too. Often I feel that YA characters either sound older ("I'm saving the whole world") or younger than the kids I know. The characters in this book felt vivid and real to me - the way they spoke, their worries, how they interacted with each other. There's Joy and Diego, both dancers. There's Liv and Dave, aspiring actors. And there's Ethan, a writer/director. I also liked that the diversity in this book felt organic and natural to the story. Joy is African-American, a ballerina who worries that her dark skin and strong physique don't measure up to the Balanchine ideal. Dave is a former child star who's family has fallen on hard times and is trying to recapture his former success. Liv is Jewish-Puerto-Rican and gets hooked on prescription pills to manage the insane pressures of a budding acting career.
The one thing about the book that I had a an issue with was the ending. I can't say too much without spoiling (and there's a fuller explanation, hidden by spoiler tags in my Goodreads review.) The book definitely hints at the general idea of what's coming, so I wasn't completely surprised, but to me it didn't entirely fit the story. There was an afterward that tried to quickly tie up some questions and loose ends, but that kind of made it worse for me that the book seemed to gloss over the huge and important issues that the ending raised.
But all in all, a great choice for those readers who like contemporary YA on the grittier side. Fans of performing arts themes should also definitely check it out!
And I'll be giving an ARC away on Friday, so stay tuned if you want to read this :)