________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 19. . . .January 17, 2014


Big Time. (Limelights).

Tom Ryan.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2014.
136 pp., pbk., pdf & epub., $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0461-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0462-3 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0463-0 (epub).

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Courtney Novotny.

** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



“Gerri,” she says. “You decided to check us out. That’s great. Come on in.”

I grab a seat next to Bernice Sneed. Bernice is in my year at school, and Meg’s right about her being a hardcore music nerd. For as long as I can remember, Bernice has spent her summers at music camp and her weekends taking music lessons. I also recognize a plump smiling girl with short curly hair and a really tall kid who I’m pretty sure is in my brother’s class, but I don’t know either of their names. On the other side of the room a guy and a girl, both with white-blond hair and bright-blue eyes, sit with their backs against the wall. I’ve never seen them before, but they look so much alike, it’s obvious they’re related.

“Hey, Gerri,” says Bernice. “I didn’t know you were trying out for choral.”

“I wasn’t going to,” I say. “But I thought about it some more and figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it a chance.”

“It’s going to be fun,” she says. “Ms. Kogawa has been trying to get a choral group off the ground for a couple of years, but she couldn’t get enough people interested.”

Ms. Kogawa finishes her paperwork and comes around to sit on her desk.

“Okay,” she says cheerfully, clapping her hands together. “I was hoping we’d have at least five or six people, so this is great. Good stuff.


After being turned down during her audition for Big Time, a television singing competition, 16-year old Gerri is at an all-time low and has lost all confidence in her music career. Fortunately, a teacher at school invites her to join a choral club, and she finds a new direction in which to focus her love of music. The choral group allows Gerri to try out different kinds of music and connect with other music-loving teens.

     While the group works to prepare a unique mash-up for an upcoming performance, the teens struggle when their personalities and music preferences clash. When the group needs someone to step in as a bass to round out their sound, Gerri goes in search of Keith, a boy she met and crushed on during her Big Time audition. Keith provides Gerri with a new perspective on music, and, in him, she finds a new friend. In reconnecting with her love of music, Gerri is also able to bond with her grandfather who shares her love of music and performing, and a hopeful ending closes the story.

     One part American Idol, one part Glee and filled with all of the related stock characters, Big Time is a high-low read that would appeal to teens interested in the entertainment and music industry. It is difficult to see past the obvious American Idol and Glee comparisons, but the story does fit today’s culture of reality TV. Ultimately, Big Time is a feel-good story that is all about a love of music and following one’s dreams, and while a possible romance is hinted at, one never fully develops, allowing music and friendships to take a leading role.

     Big Time is the latest addition to the Orca’s “Limelights” series of high interest books about performing arts for the 11-14 age range. What’s great about this series, like other high interest Orca series, is that it offers highly specialized subject matter for readers looking to read about specific topics. These titles are worth pursuing to round out a collection, both in subject matter and in reading level.


Courtney Novotny is a Children, Teens and Families Librarian at Calgary Public Library in Calgary, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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