Rival: review

May 29, 2011 2.5 star books, music, sara bennett wealer, Wendy 3

by Sara Bennett Wealer

I liked the first half of this book quite a lot. Kathryn and Brooke used to be best friends until something drove them apart–but what was it? The story starts off in senior year, told in alternating chapters between both girls’ points of view, then eventually goes back and forth between junior and senior years. This framework might sound complicated, but it actually works just fine, and the author does a good job of writing different voices for both girls’ narratives. The reader gets the usual insight of several events seen from two different points of view, and I found both girls to be fairly sympathetic and interesting in the beginning. 

I also enjoyed the immersion in the world of music and choir and opera. Sara Bennett Wealer has a musical background and her love and respect for music really show through her characters. I also liked some of the secondary characters, including Kathryn’s parents, Brooke’s brothers, Matt-the-faithful-male-best-friend, and John Moorehouse, the guy every girl in school wants to date.

About 200 pages into the book, however, the way I felt about the book started to change as the events of junior year are gradually revealed. And I realized, much to my dismay, that both Brooke and Kathryn had behaved badly–and I was beginning to really dislike both of them. By the time thing heat up as the girls work towards a prestigious singing competition in their senior year, I was more than ready to say good-bye to them.

Here are just some of the things they did to each other and to people they care about: 
(Some spoilers below)

* humiliated each other publicly
* constantly tossed another friend aside in favor of more popular friends
* endangered the other girl’s life
* revealed a secret with huge ramifications
* made a date to go out with a popular guy to Homecoming after agreeing to go with her male bestie
* using that same friend’s credit card without permission to buy clothes to go to that same dance
* punched the other girl in the face, knocking her out.

While we all might’ve felt the urge to do this kind of stuff now and again, I’ve never, ever been friends with anyone who would actually go through with it. I mean, she PUNCHED HER FRIEND IN THE FACE. C’mon! There’s just no excuse for this kind of behavior, no matter how hurt you are or what you’re trying to figure out. 

Neither girl is so fantastically special or has gone through anything so horrible that any of this is even remotely forgivable. It’s also all too easy to spot the actual villain in the book, and honestly the events leading to the break-up and the aftermath felt pretty cartoonish and forced in a way that neither the friendship nor the interest in music did.  I wish all of life’s failed friendships could be explained away as the evil machinations of a third wheel.

Most of the singing stuff had taken a back seat until the very end, too, and I would like to have seen more done with that since the whole book was building up to the big competition. I did like that the author didn’t go the usual way with the whole John and Matt situation, however, and I was okay with the note it finally ended on between the two girls. Unfortunately by the time this all got resolved, I’d long stopped caring what was going to happen to either one of them.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars

30-second synopsis: An interesting musical rivalry between two friends gets bogged down with cartoonish machinations and ultimately unlikable protagonists. A promising start with disappointing end.

3 Responses to “Rival: review”

  1. Wendy Darling

    Thanks so much! And yes, these two would *not* be friends of mine. Appreciate your stopping by my blog, Leanna. :)

  2. Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews)

    Wow! Kathryn and Brooke sounds like pieces of work! Not sure if this book is for me, although I did like the synopsis when I first read it.

    I just found your blog by the way – I love the design! I’m also an adult who enjoys YA! :)