This fall, I became involved in a fascinating discussion on Facebook about a literary fight that was getting a lot of press at the time. Sadly, I love that kind of stuff. None of the people involved in the discussion were people I actually knew because I, like many writers, am Facebook friends with many authors I don't actually know. We're all networking. After engaging with them for a while, I thought, Who are these people? I looked up a few and tried to find their books in the e-book library system I use. Sara Bennett Wealer's Rival was there, and I ended up with a very good read.
Two Great Things About Rival
- The two rivals are not rivals for high school status but for top honors in a major, high quality singing competition. These young women are highly talented and trained singers. They have something very interesting going on in their lives beyond who-gets-to-sit-at-which table in the cafeteria. They have a passion and an interest beyond the next dance. The character who we would probably consider the bully in this story doesn't even care that much, or maybe even at all, about the high school social world she dominates. She wants to win the singing competition and impress her father. Because if there is one thing we've learned from the second season of Ted Lasso it's that everyone has daddy issues. The character we would consider the victim needs the competition scholarship money. She does not keep her eye on the real price as much as she should
- It's hard to tell who the real bad guy is here. As I said, Queen B, the pseudo-bully, really doesn't care about things like the important dance after the football game. She cares about singing. Whereas the victim, who needs to win the competition for college money, bends over backwards to get in good with the clique around the bully. In fact, she does one thing I think most people would consider criminal and for a very shallow reason. Then there's a third character, a member of what we'd usually consider the mean girl clique, who is highly active behind the scenes. She might have a little sociopath thing going on. I now want to read more books about characters in her position. What the heck kind of life are they living and making for themselves?
The Music Is A Great Asset
I am not a fan of teen friend angst stories, especially when related to cliques, mainly because if you've read one book about that, you've pretty much read them all. However, adding a talent to work with for the two main characters makes them so much more interesting. And I don't even know anything about singing. Wealer does. According to her website, she sang in choirs as a teenager and majored, at least for a while, in voice performance in college.
She makes great use of her knowledge in Rival and does some interesting things with what could have been very cliched characters.