Monday, December 6, 2010

Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer

Reading Level: YA
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 15, 2011)

Summary: What if your worst enemy turned out to be the best friend you ever had?
Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.

Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.
The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.
As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?

Our Review: Music is the core of Kathryn and Brooke’s friendship throughout high school. Through the teenage drama that often severs even the closest of friendships, music keeps the two girls together. Kathryn is known as a “loner”; Brooke, the wealthy and popular “it” type of girl. What would someone so popular want to have anything to do with one from the bottom of the high school food chain? Such a difference in lifestyles has a major influence on the decisions and choices that Brook and Kathryn make throughout their high school years.

A large portion of Kathryn and Brooke’s friendship revolves around jealousy. Brooke yearns for the loving and hospitable family Kathryn has and enjoys the time spent at their comfy and lived in home. Such is the opposite of Brooke’s often empty upscale house and distant divorced parents. To Brooke, Kathryn serves as a break from the uptight lifestyle often associated with wealth. On the contrary, Kathryn envies Brooke’s affluence and popularity compared with her own financial struggles.

As time progresses, Kathryn and Brooke begin preparing for the annual Blackmore Festival, a vocal competition with a huge monetary reward. Both girls enter with hopes of enhancing their futures; Kathryn, for financial assistance with college right around the corner; Brooke, to pursue her professional music career. Since there is only one winner of the Blackmore Festival, it is inevitable that Brooke and Kathryn will be faced against each other at one point. Rivalry, accompanied by an incident that takes place during junior year, officially destroys the friendship between Kathryn and Brooke. The music that once kept the two girls together now tears them apart. As a last resort, Kathryn returns to her trusting friend Matt, who she unknowingly ditches and replaces with Brooke at the beginning of the novel. As her sole friend once more, Matt helps Kathryn to better understand who her real friends are

Sara Wealer writes this novel in an alternating perspective between Kathryn and Brooke throughout their junior and senior years of high school. I thought this was particularly annoying and confusing, considering that the storyline is basically cut up and fed to the reader in randomized chronology. Without the proper background information I found it hard to piece matters together and form conclusions. On the bright side, I thought that Wealer’s friendship ideals were very realistic and that Kathryn’s financial struggles for college rang true to many high school students in the same situation as her. In the long run, if this story had been written in chronological order, I personally would have enjoyed it better. Rival is a quick read for those seeking a storyline that captures the dynamics of a good friendship and the struggles involved.

Rating: +++

Quote: “I stare at the paper, startled by its sudden reappearance. It lies on the practice room rug, still pristine after sitting a year in my music book. A year ago that invitation was a promise of new friendship; now it’s like a glove that a knight would throw down before the final battle in one of Matt’s fantasy films.”

(Page 244 ARC edition)

Cover Comment: The artwork is beautifully done; however, I thought it to be somewhat misleading. Upon sight of the piano keys, I assumed that piano had a major involvement in the book; it turns out, the piano is just a small addition to the storyline.

Book Source: Star Book Tours

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