Author: Sara Bennett Wealer
Publisher: HarperTeen (Imprint of Harper Collins)
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository
Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.
Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.
The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.
As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?
At first, I was dubious about Rival and only read it because its cover was pretty. I can’t sing to save my life, so I was skeptical about how good a book revolving almost entirely around singing would be. But I found myself amazed. It was so compulsively readable that I finished the book in less than a day.
I think the best thing about Rival was how I could relate. It doesn’t matter who you were (or are) in high school, there is someone in Rival you could relate to, I can guarantee that. Even though not everybody’s in the choir, having a rival is something most people can relate to and Rival manages to capture the teen years perfectly. Even though this book appears to be only about singing, it’s more about friendships, rivalries, popularity, and envy.
What made this book its best were the emotions. I could understand both Kathryn and Brooke so well, how they felt towards each other. I could even understand their misunderstandings.
Although Rival was more about friendship than romance, the romance it had spiced things up. The makings of a love triangle were hinted at, although it had an obvious “winner” from the start, which was a nice change from all the triangles I’ve had recently. Matt is really sweet, and I loved the Matt Melter (tee em). The Matt Melter was the cherry on the cake for me. I loved that Kathryn and Matt had a history, that they weren’t born only for the sake of the story.
The PoV alters from Brooke to Kathryn and from Junior year to Senior year. Being a “secondary schooler” in Hong Kong instead of a “high schooler” in the US, I couldn’t tell what Junior year was, but I assumed that Junior was younger than Senior anyway (clever me). The constant time changes were sometimes confusing, but they were effective as they fed me tidbits of the story and kept my interest annoyed because it couldn’t be satisfied. The double PoV really worked for Rival because Brooke and Kathryn each had a story to tell, and their voices were so diverse that I never mixed them up. I love both Brooke and Kathryn equally much because of the PoV, if it were only one, I’d have probably thought the other one was a bitch, and it wouldn’t have worked, because this story belongs to both of them.
Rival has it all down perfectly: the high school hierarchies, the parties, the gossip… It’s social life in high school conveniently packed into a book.
Forgive, forget, know who your friends are, and keep them.
Then go read Rival.
See my interview with the lovely author of Rival herself, Sara!
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