Dramarama | Stand-Alone | ISBN 9781471406065 | Hot Key Books, 2017 | 5 out of 5 Points
“Two teen theatre-fanatics. One dream. And SUMMER DRAMA CAMP. All-round theatre-enthusiast, Sarah – better known by her showbiz name, Sayde – is a girl with ambitions too big for the small and conventional town she lives in. Her life doesn’t have the razzle-dazzle she craves. For once she wants to feel special, noticed and be the centre of attention.
This summer Sadye has her talents set on Wildewood’s prestigious theatre summer camp. And with her best friend Demi – a flamboyant falsetto, who is equally thrilled to be leaving their small town of Brenton – they will both experience a season of hormones, hissy fits, jazz hands, song and dance, true love and unitards! But despite all the glitz and glam, there comes rivalry and competition, and Sadye will have to prove her talents more than she has ever had to before. Summer at Wildewood will not only determine Sadye’s future – but will also test her friendships.”
I have read E. Lockhart’s „Dramarama“ so many times now, I probably know it by heart. We all have these books we loved as teenagers that we keep rereading every time we need to cheer ourselves up, right? “Dramarama” is that book for me. I decided to review it today because there’s a new edition out with a brand new cover nearly ten years after it was first published. I like the original cover a lot better but I’m glad this fabulous book is getting a fresh chance to put its razzle-dazzle spell on a whole new generation of teenagers. I first picked up “Dramarama” because I love fiction about musical theatre but this book is more than that. It’s more than just a fun fluffy Sunday afternoon read. I think it’s brilliant.
THE LURKING BIGNESS
Sixteen year old Sarah Paulson is bored of her small Ohio hometown, her classmates, her friends and the plainness of her life so far. Sarah senses a bigness inside of her so she cuts off her hair, changes her name to Sadye and applies for the summer programme at Wildewood, a Performing Arts school, together with her best friend Demi. “Dramarama” really seems like a funny fluffy romantic teen comedy but it isn’t. At least it’s not just that. It’s about being a teenager, fighting for what you love, expressing yourself and figuring out your path in life. It’s about friendship, not so much about love. It’s basically about figuring out who you are.
What I love about Sadye is that she isn’t perfect in any way. She’s not conventionally pretty, she’s not the best singer or actress, she’s not always nice. She has an edge to her that you don’t see often in YA literature. She is complicated and awkward and sometimes she’s downright mean. She doesn’t understand a lot of things. But what makes her so relatable and lovable is that she never stops trying to be better. I saw a lot of myself in Sadye, in her desire to be exceptional but also in her shortcomings. I think most readers will recognise themselves in Sadye, teenagers and older readers alike, especially those with an interest in the arts.
But be prepared: “Dramarama” grabs you by the heartstrings. I didn’t expect it to be such an emotional read but it was heartbreaking in the best way and it breaks my heart all over again every time I reread it. “Dramarama”’s magic just doesn’t wear off which can’t be said for every book. The first time around the ending will surprise you but even though I knew how the book would end the second time around, it still worked. This story is just very well written. The style is light but quite profound and the book is full of emotional depth that doesn’t come off as pretentious or try-hard. Lockhart is a very good writer. She always finds the right words and manages to achieve a balance between light fun Performance Arts drama and something much deeper. Just like Sadye this book has a lurking bigness inside that shines through and draws you in.
GIVE ‘EM THE OLD RAZZLE-DAZZLE
Most YA books about the glittering world of Performance Arts school and drama camp I’ve read focused on the glitz and the fun of the profession. There’s lots of razzle-dazzle in “Dramarama” too but Lockhart also concentrates on the drawbacks a lot. “Dramarama” is a look behind the curtain which I loved a lot. Drama isn’t just a fun pastime in this book, it’s a passion, it’s hard work, it’s not always fun – just like in real life. What I loved best was how Sadye behaved once she realised she was surrounded by prodigies, overachievers and in one case actual Broadway stars in the making. She got jealous, she felt like she wasn’t enough, but she kept going because she wanted to belong so much. Sadye’s feelings read raw and authentic and you’re bound to share them with her. I’m a lot like Sadye in the sense that I always wanted to be a singer but I never sang well enough and I never will. Sadye’s struggles at Wildewood resonated with me quite a lot because of this but I’m pretty sure everyone knows what it feels like to just not be good enough.
I also liked how “Dramarama” dealt with issues like racism and homophobia. Sadye’s best friend Demi is gay and black. The discrimination he faces only becomes apparent now and then but when it does it hits you quite hard. Lockhart didn’t go for in-your-face racism and homophobia. She goes for very realistic micro aggressions that happen everyday and are sometimes even overlooked. Lockhart forces you to see them though, to understand why they’re a problem. The book is told from Sadye’s first person perspective and even though she often doesn’t realise what’s bothering Demi the reader does. I thought this was awesome. A big part of this book is about Demi and Sadye drifting apart and this plays into it quite a bit along with everything else. It’s apparent Lockhart cares about social issues and problems and she manages to work them into her plot effortlessly. Everything about “Dramarama” feels very real and I liked that a lot.
There’s only one little thing I didn’t like so much but I didn’t care too much in the end. I didn’t like how Sadye thought of herself as better than the girls at her school. She called them boring and all the same a lot and I wish she wouldn’t have. It’s one thing that they don’t understand her and her love for theatre, that she doesn’t fit in at school and they don’t share the same interests but I didn’t think it was necessary to paint all these girls as less than Sadye and boring just because they weren’t into theatre. Basically everyone at Sadye’s Ohio small town high school is mainstream and Sadye is a bit of a drama hipster. I get that Sadye doesn’t fit in and doesn’t feel at home with this crowd but equating liking mainstream things with a shallow character doesn’t sit well with me. Isn’t that a shallow mindset too?
SO RELATABLE IT HURTS
I don’t know why Lockhart decided to go down that route but I don’t mind it too much because it doesn’t come up often. It kind of plays into Sadye being a likable but also a very authentic character. You’ll like all of these characters but you won’t like them all the time. Sadye can be jealous and mean. Nanette is a sweet little cupcake but she can be arrogant. Isadora is pretentious but she’s also a loyal friend. And then there’s Demi. Damn, I love Demi. He’s everything Sadye wants to be: Talented, charismatic, big, fabulous and loved by everyone. Demi is so bright and full of talent that you kind of want to hate him because you can’t be like him. You understand why Sadye is jealous. And he has his moments. He can be self-centred and shallow. But Lockhart makes you love him anyway in the same way that Sadye loves him and clings to him.
“Dramarama” is just brilliant Contemporary YA. It’s emotional and real with great believable characters who you won’t always like but always care about anyway. It’s about the world of Performance Arts, about the good and bad parts, it’s about love but mostly it’s about friendship and finding out who you really are. I love “Dramarama”. It’s funny at times but it also has it’s dark moments, it’s touching and it’s realistic. Sadye’s love for musical theatre drips from every page and her insecurities and flaws are so relatable that it hurts sometimes. If you’re looking for a fun light read about kids having fun at drama camp, this book might not be for you. But if you want a touching novel about the highs and lows of Performance Arts school, friendship and finding your place in the world, this is the book for you.
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