by B. Lynn Goodwin
In Talent, Sandee Mason struggles, as do all her peers, with her own set of teenage anxieties, except that she has an extra huge worry: her big brother, Brian, is missing in action in Afghanistan. Bri, as she calls him, has been MIA for seven months when the story opens. The emotional upheaval of the situation has caused her parents so much angst, they have become largely unavailable to support Sandee. Without her always-reliable big brother to seek advice from, Sandee tries hard to cope on her own.
She is waiting to audition for a part in her school's spring production of the musical Oklahoma when we meet her. When Sandee is nervous she eats M&Ms, two at a time, and she is popping them in her mouth as she watches her other classmates mill around as they wait to audition, also. She'd like the lead part of Ado Annie, but would settle for a lesser part, just as long as it has lines. Sandee yearns to be part of the close-knit, successful drama family.
But when the cast list is posted, Sandee's name is absent. Mrs. G, the director, invites Sandee to be Production Assistant instead, which, with disappointment Sandee accepts. This confirms that she is a loser, which she suspected earlier and now firmly believes.
In Lynn Goodwin's novel, we fully enter into the two worlds of adolescence and theater. As we turn pages, then chapters, we find words of an author who obviously well-knows both of these worlds. Goodwin has crafted the peer relationships, the parent, teacher, and other adult relationships with a layered depth and richness which I found both mesmerizing and uncommon. Sandee and her friends are all good kids, struggling with tough challenges in their lives, making some mistakes yet are trying to do their best. Even when a parent may not be able to help, Goodwin superbly shows us what can happen when other caring people—a teacher, a police officer, or a friend—take on positive roles of respectful help and support.
Talent is a wonderful YA book that I highly recommend. There's more good news about this book: a sequel is in the works.
Read an excerpt from this book.
B. Lynn Goodwin is the owner of Writer Advice, which celebrated its 18th year this October, and the author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers, (Tate Publishing). Her stories and articles have been widely published. Recently she's been published in Writing After Retirement: Tips by Successful Retired Writers, Small Miracles from Beyond: Dreams, Visions and Signs that Link Us to the Other Side, the Las Positas Anthology, and a piece on the Good Housekeeping blog. She's currently working on a memoir about getting married for the first time at age 62.
(See another review of this book, here)
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