Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek

Anyone who knows me, knows that I enjoy the theater.  So, naturally, when I find a book that combines both my love for the theater with my love for a good mystery, I'm going to have to give it a shot.

This book tells the story of Justin Goldblatt, a normal (i.e. not thin, still fighting through puberty) teenager who gets the chance of a lifetime to intern on Broadway with an actor for whom he has had a crush for the longest time.  So he lies to the firm where he was going to intern and takes off for New York...

Only to discover that everything is not what he expected with the internship.  This little comedy/drama/mystery raises some interesting questions - such as who is leaving Justin notes saying "He's a fake"?  Why is the actor's assistant giving Justin every task in the world to do that purposefully keeps him away from the theater?  Who is the person Justin sees walking the streets with the actor's assistant?  There's a mystery afoot, and Justin is determined to solve it and save his favorite actor's Broadway career!

While Seth Rudetsky (the same one who wrote Broadway Nights and The Q Guide the Broadway) does capture some of the drama that teens go through with low self-esteem, petty arguments and jealousies, and the uncertainty of making the right choices, he goes a bit overboard with Justin's incessant whining, whoa-is-me, why is everyone blaming me attitude throughout the entire book.  Yes, the character has a few redeeming qualities (his determination to save Chase Hudson's career on stage) and he does manage to make some positive changes towards the end (such as apologizing to his friends and coming clean with the lies he told to get the internship), but by that time, I was so fed up with the constant whining that I still didn't like the character.  I found his best friend, Becky, and his new-found friend in NYC, Devon, to be much more well-rounded characters and more likable than Justin.

That being said, the underlying mystery was well-done, indeed. You pretty much know who the culprit is the entire time, but what you don't know is exactly what that person is up to and the reasons behind it.  The final reveal at the end is very much like a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book, with Justin finding out that last crucial bit of information that makes everything fall into place, then, with the help of his friends, setting up an elaborate plan to catch the crook and trick that person into revealing him/herself.

Overall, not a bad read, but not one of the best I've read.  Paul Ruditis' DRAMA series of books, or Marc Acito's How I Paid for College and its sequel were definitely much better tales of actors and the stage.

RATING:  6 out of 10 standing ovations for being able to tell a good mystery with a very unlikable protagonist.

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