Dramarama (by E. Lockhart)

3 10 2010

When the lifestyle of small-town America isn’t enough and you feel constantly as though your life is destined to get its share of razzle tazzle, but you can’t get it where you are now, what do you do? You find another misfit and escape in the life of musical and drama and you audition to go to the summer theater camp at Wildewood Academy of Performing Arts.

Sadye (Sarah) and Demi (Douglas Howard), feel utterly out of place in their Ohion village, find each other through their common interest in theater and decide to get out, no matter what. The theater of Broadway is where their ambitions lie. Demi, as it turns out, is not only bursting with ambition, he also has the talent to match it.  Sadye, well,… not so much. Not only does she have to discover that she might not be quite as talented as she’d thought (hoped), her friendship with the only person in the world who understood her suffers from it.

Dramarama is full of theater references, musical songs, and yes… teenage drama. If you aren’t really into all that musical stuff (and I’m not), then stay away from this book. There really isn’t anything that makes it surpass mediocrity. It doesn’t explode with fun (no feather boas, no jazz hands – despite what the blurb promised!). There are no real memorable characters.  And it’s actually chockfull of stereotypes. Of course Demi is gay. Of course he feels like he’s been performing all his life. Of course he adores Liza Minelli. Of course his parents don’t even dare to look him in the eye because of who he is (a black gay boy in Ohio?). Of course, he’ll end up being talented.  Of course there’s a child star who’s totally used as a cash cow by her parents (oh and she was in Annie, sigh…); etc. etc. I also do get the whole “drifting apart” of the 2 BFFs who are outsiders in their narrow-minded community. I get it that not everyone has the talent to match their ambitions and the need to get over it and move on, because that’s life, that’s showbiz.

The fact that Sadye doesn’t end up being quite as talented as she thought is one thing (life sucks that way sometimes, you know…). However, what is really bothersome in the book is the message a teen might take away from this. The ‘surprise ending’ (stop reading if you don’t want to be spoiled!) is that Sadye takes the blame for something that Demi did, and gets kicked out of Wildewood. Well, that was the official excuse, anyway.  But really, she gets kicked out because she dared to speak up to the star director Morales, because she dared to question some of the directorial choices that another director made etc. And actually, Demi, the other main character, agrees with it: she just shouldn’t be so defiant. She’s being difficult. So what an impressionable teen takes away from this is: speak your own mind and you will get punished. Right. OK. Ummm, really? That’s your message for your teenage readership?

I realize that books can (and should have) questionable ethics sometimes – only by transgressing ethical and other boundaries you can decide which options are right for you –  but if there’s no redeeming factor such as an excellent writing style; literary pretensions (snort); memorable characters; a universal story, etc, why would a publishing house decide to publish something so… simple, when there are so many great writers and manuscripts out there these days, that do promote critical thinking? It’s not that I think this book ‘is bad and shouldn’t have been printed’. It’s that E. Lockhart should have been her own editor here. But hey, maybe I’m just making a big drama out of it, right? Right?



One response

29 07 2014
London and books. | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] Tim Federle: this is how to do showtime Broadway musical fun. I’m usually quite frustrated with books with that very topic, but not this time: I loved every second of this book. So funny! Can’t wait to see what’s next […]

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