Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book Review: You in Five Acts

This week I read You in Five Acts by Una La Marche. This is a book that was gifted to me by Brett at Christmas and a book I had never heard of before opening it up on Christmas morning. I picked it up this week during the Read-O-Rama readathon and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am pretty shocked that this book isn't getting more hype in the YA literature community because it seems like the perfect mixture of drama, romance, and self-discovery that every YA lover would fall head over heels for. I was very pleasantly surprised by this book and because it hasn't gotten that much attention I thought I would write a non-spoiler review for other readers to learn more!

You in Five Acts chronicles the final semester of five students at a prestigious New York performing arts high school - Joy, Diego, Ethan, Dave, and Liv. The story is told in each character's perspective and each character has a "you" - a love interest that is one of the other main characters. Each character is trying to figure out what they will be doing after they graduate (college or company?) and of course there are many challenges along the way such as unrequited love, racial identity struggles, familial issues, potential career-ending injuries, and a spiraling drug addiction, among others. Every character has their own issues to overcome and we get a sneak peak into the things that they are hiding from one another.

I thought that the setting of the performing arts high school was done very well - not saying that it was necessarily accurate to the life inside a performing arts high school, but I enjoyed the fact that it wasn't the sole focus of the book. This is an extremely character driven story and each character has so much more to them than their education or careers that it was very important that those things didn't take away from who the character was as a person. I think La Marche did a really wonderful job of not distracting the reader from the character with the setting of the school.

La Marche wrote the five main characters so well that it was really hard not to grow attached to them. Throughout this book I felt the nerves Joy was feeling through her audition. I felt the longing Diego had for his "you". I felt Ethan's frustrated for a love not reciprocated. It was so easy to connect with these characters on more than a surface level because La March wrote their experiences in a way that you could very easily put yourself into their shoes. Their triumphs were my triumphs and their tragedies were my tragedies. I absolutely LOVE when an author can make me feel that way about the characters that I spend time with while I'm reading.

There were only two things holding me back from giving this book the full five stars. The first was that while I could relate to these characters and their experiences, it really felt that what these characters were going through and how they were processing each situation was more realistic for college students than high school seniors. Not to say that high school seniors can't act/think/talk the way the main characters did in this book, but its a lot less likely that they would vs. a college senior. I kept picturing 22 year olds going through these experiences (maybe it's because I work with college students on a daily basis?) and kept needing to remind myself that they were in high school. This definitely was something that bothered me and distracted me throughout the book.

The second thing holding me back from a five-star rating was that there were references to current events sprinkled throughout the book that kept pulling me out of the story. When I'm reading about a fictional world and current events are woven into the plot line, it takes a lot for an author to execute this in a way where I won't be taken out of the story. Unfortunately, La Marche was not successful at this. There were references to events of police brutality to PoC, the Charleston shooter, and Donald Trump's wall along the Mexican border, all of which completely took me out of the story and had me thinking about the actual current events. I think that is more about me as a reader, though, as these are things that I feel emotionally connected to and things that I do think about on a regular basis. I'm not sure if a reader who doesn't feel connected to those events would have the same experience, but unfortunately I had to take time to refocus on the plot when jumping back into the story.

Other than those two things, I thought You in Five Acts was a solid YA novel that I really think deserves a lot more attention. I am really happy Brett picked this book out for me because I thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to a lover of YA literature and the performing arts.

Overall I gave this book...
4.5/5 Stars!

Have you read You in Five Acts? If so, what did you think?
Let me know in the comments!

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