Wednesday, November 22, 2006

To Sing or Not to Sing? Is That the Question?

Diva by Alex Flinn
4Q J/S

This post doesn't do justice to this book, but I'm going to put it up anyhow. When a book talks about going for your dreams, it's worth talking about. Caution: Some people may feel I've included some spoilers in this post. But I think this book isn't so much about what happens as it is about how Caitlin deals with what happens (and has happened).


Loved this line: "...and then I ask if we can sing some more, because I really want to work on this piece I'm doing. It goes up to a high E-flat, and that's the closest I can get to socially acceptable screaming."

I really liked this paragraph, too: "That's the thing about having real friends like Gigi and Sean. You feel like you can tell them the truth about stuff in your life, and they won't rag on you or try and use it against you, or try to talk you out of it because it doesn't fit with what they want." Food for thought.

This book is an object lesson on how NOT to be anonymous on the Web. Caitlin decides that she wants to write about the things she's experiencing, but she doesn't want to keep a journal or diary because she's afraid her mother would find and read it. She figures she'll keep an online journal (strangely enough, she doesn't use the word blog) because that way she can write whatever she wants and nobody will know it's her. Advice to Caitlin: if you really want to write about what's going on in your life but don't want people to know it's you, don't reveal: where you live, what school you go to, your ex-boyfriend's name and the detail that he used to beat you up, and that you used to be fat but lost a lot of weight and became a Homecoming Princess last year. You've just made it incredibly easy to figure out exactly who you are. You've got to pay more attention to those "stranger danger" lectures.

This book is a sequel to Flinn's Breathing Underwater, but you definitely don't have to have read the first book to get something out of this one. (But if you're looking for good books, I recommend you do read Breathing Underwater. It's about the relationship between Nick and Caitlin, told from Nick's point of view in the journal he's forced to keep as part of court-ordered counseling sessions for guys who beat up on their wives/girlfriends.)

Caitlin is anxious to transfer to the Miami High School for the Arts for three reasons: she wants to get away from Nick, her ex-boyfriend who used to beat her up; she wants to get away from her so-called friends, who she doesn't really like; and she desperately wants to go to a school where it's okay to say out loud that you want to be an opera singer.

Caitlin has a few issues. (Don't we all?) For one thing, Caitlin was fat until she went to a fat camp and lost thirty-five pounds. All of a sudden, she's babe material, catching the attention of guys like Nick and getting accepted by the cheerleading crowd. As already mentioned, that didn't exactly work out well for her. She doesn't have an eating disorder now, but she certainly is very conscious of what she weighs and what she eats, and it's hard keeping the pounds off. No matter how good people tell her she looks, she always feels like a fat girl inside. Her mother doesn't help the issue any. She's the really hot girl in their house. She dresses (and sometimes acts) more like a teenage girl than Caitlin does, what with her crop tops, spandex, and four-inch high heels. If that was Caitlin's only mother issue, she could deal. But her mother's taste in men is questionable at best, and that has Caitlin worried and angry. On top of all that, her mother also isn't what you'd call supportive of her dreams. As far as her mother is concerned, opera is just noisy screeching. Caitlin's main issue is that she dreams of becoming an opera star, a diva. But it's easier to dream it than to achieve it, especially when you have more self-doubt than self-confidence.It's a lot to deal with, especially when you add her history with Nick into the pot and stir.

When Caitlin auditions for the Miami School for the Arts, she knows her mother isn't going to go for it. But Caitlin's audition is really impressive, and the school wants her. With a little prodding from her voice teacher, Caitlin decides to force the issue. In fact, she resorts to blackmail, telling her mother she'll go live with her father if her mother won't let her go. They both know her father doesn't want her and probably wouldn't take her, but the threat works anyway. Caitlin enrolls at MSFTA.

The book concentrates on Caitlin's experiences at school, her developing friendships with Gigi (sarcastic Eyebrow Ring Girl with the bright Jell-O red --today, anyhow-- hair) and Sean (talented, possible boyfriend material - but maybe not), and her feelings about her mother's affair with a married man. While most teens may not relate to wanting to sing opera, most people can relate to wanting to be really good at something. A lot of us can also relate to sometimes being a little afraid to go for something. What if we're not as good as people say we are? What if we look stupid? What if we blow it? Sometimes it's easier not to try, because then we won't fail. Then again, then we won't succeed, either.

This is a good book for anyone who has ever questioned their abilities and purpose. And that's pretty much all of us.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, thanks for the review, which I found a year later (I'm sure other people saw it sooner, though, and that's what's important). Glad you liked the book!


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