In the high-pressure months leading up to the performance that will determine their futures, a group of friends at a performing arts school look back on when an unexpected event upended everything. The moment that changed their relationships, their friendships, and their lives forever.
At a prestigious New York City performing arts school, five friends connect over one dream of stardom. But for Joy, Diego, Liv, Ethan and Dave, that dream falters under the pressure of second-semester, Senior year. Ambitions shift and change, new emotions rush to the surface, and a sense of urgency pulses between them: Their time together is running out.
Diego hopes to get out of the friend zone. Liv wants to escape, losing herself in fantasies of the new guy. Ethan conspires to turn his muse into his girlfriend. Dave pines for the drama queen. And if Joy doesn’t open her eyes, she could lose the love that’s been in front of her all along.
***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Penguin First to Read
You in Five Acts is told from the 5 perspectives of friends at a performing arts school in New York City. Each act is a new person directly talking to someone they care about, addressing them as “You”. They read like both diary entries and letters. The premise and organization is engaging, inspired, and gives you the opportunity to know each character-there are no secondary characters, they’re all the main character.
The biggest problem with this style choice is making sure each section is as strong as the last, unfortunately, (at least to me) 3 of 5 POVs were just so-so. Joy and Diego were by far my favorite. There was so much substance in their stories, whereas Liv, Ethan, and Dave read like a bucketful of teen angst. I struggled to sympathize or even empathize with them. Stress, unrequited love, and failed dreams lingered just out of touch. For some reason, all of the components were there but didn’t come across as powerfully as they should have.
Joy is a vision. She’s fierce, determined, and incredibly brave. She aims to break stereotypes and prove to her parents that despite the fact that the ballet world is dominated by thin, white ballerinas, that she can make it as prima ballerina. Joy has so much to offer and her story addresses the not-so-subtle prejudice in ballet. She’s strong, she has a normal body and she refuses to let commentary about her weight as not being the ideal ballet figure break her down. She’s proud of her body image and I think we need more of that in YA. In a world where everyone is unhappy about parts of themselves, they’re constantly critiqued, judged and put down when they don’t fit whatever ridiculous standards and tossed out there, Joy is not only refreshing but a straight up heroine. There’s a scene where she fights back against the toxic body image commentary and it is simply revolutionary. At the same time, Joy has insecurities about boys that are relatable and endearing.
Diego. Breaking away from a cycle of crime, poverty, and bad choices feels impossible. When you’re surrounded by that environment, getting caught up in that life is easy. Diego is a wonderful person. He’s funny, full of life, and completely enamoured with Joy. She’s his light and hope. She makes him smile and he does everything to see that laugh he adores. Diego’s story is complicated, but intensely real.
That ending. Do yourself a favor and avoid spoilers. They’re everywhere and it destroys the story. The build up to tragedy is consistent and keeps you going even when the pace is mind-numbing slow.
- Creative style
- Deals with tough and culturally relevant topics
- So much angst
- So-so characters (apart from Diego and Joy)
- Snail’s pace
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