CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 2. . . .September 10, 2010.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2010.
253 pp., pbk., $12.95.
Grades 7-10 / Ages 12–15.
Review by Amy Dawley.
I stumble towards Craig. His head is to one side, and his eyes probe mine. “Are you ready?”
I feel myself nod, though I’m not ready at all. No. Then I begin to shake my head, but too late. He’s speaking his lines. He’s finished. He waits.
What are my words? My mind roves frantically, but the words in my head have nothing to do with The Sound of Music. My feet are heavy; I can’t move them. In my stomach is a terrible churning...if it’s caused by butterflies, they’re butterflies with steel-toed boots. Cruel butterflies, laughing at me...can hear their voices, but not quite make out their words. Something about I’m not supposed to be here. I’m a fake... I feel so alone. Even surrounded by faces that look helpful and hopeful, I’m alone.
“Molly?” Mr. Roman’s familiar voice comes to me through it all. “Molly?”
I can’t respond. Inside me, there’s breaking, a coming apart of pieces that I haven’t even known of. I always thought there was a whole me in there. Now I know it was all glued together—only the glue isn’t working now.
I have an overwhelming urge to sob. Or throw up.
Molly Gumley has waited her whole life for this moment. High school is starting, and she is looking forward to being able to fulfill her dreams of being on a real stage. Molly wants to be a star, and while the acting opportunities she got in elementary school were plenty, she is thrilled to be able to study drama seriously in high school with a real drama teacher. Molly is known widely as a gifted actor, and her reputation precedes her at her new school. Everyone—including her friends and teachers—expects her to land the lead role in the school’s production of The Sound of Music. Molly has always believed that she has come from a long line of stage talent—namely her flamboyant grandmother who has recently passed away—and takes comfort in knowing that her talent has been handed down to her through the generations. Molly grew up hearing Grand’s stories of famous actors she met and productions she was in and has dreamed of having a life exactly like her grandmother’s.
But when Molly learns that Grand never was on stage and that all the stories she heard growing up were fanciful lies, nothing is the same again. Molly gets terrible stage fright during auditions for The Sound of Music, and her whole world comes crashing down. She is so shaken by this traumatic event that every time she attempts to act or be on stage, she shuts down, runs off stage, or throws up. Suddenly, Molly isn’t sure of anything in her life anymore, and she begins to question everything about her life and in her past that has led up to now. For a teen whose life plan was once so certain, not knowing what the future holds is agonizing.
Alison Acheson has built upon this strong main plot with several subplots, including Molly’s relationship with her best friend, Candace, who is an artist and is struggling with her own disappointment with a less-than-inspiring art teacher. To make matters even worse, Candace’s single mother is pregnant and refuses to tell Candace the identity of the baby’s father. While Candace and her mother have always been two peas in a pod, Candace struggles to adjust to the realities of welcoming a new member to the family and mourns the loss of closeness with her mother. Candace’s anger toward her mother is palpable, and the book chronicles how it affects her school, personal, and artistic life. The two girls’ relationship dynamics with their respective mothers feature strongly in the book as both teens have missing or absent fathers.
The relationships in Molly’s Cue are real, gritty, and teens who enjoy stories of friendship and families will enjoy this book. A sure hit with teens who are into drama and theatre, Acheson’s novel illustrates the ups and downs of having a dream, struggling to realize it, and coming to terms with disappointment if things don’t quite work out. Molly’s struggles to accept change and feelings of unrealized expectations will resonate with teens who are going through transition in their own lives.
Amy Dawley is the teen librarian at the Prince George Public Library in Prince George, BC.
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