BWW Review: DRAMATICALLY EVER AFTER by Isabel Bandeira
If you're an actor, or did/do school theatre, you're going to love DRAMATICALLY EVER AFTER by Isabel Bandeira. What could be better than a book centered around an aspiring thespian as she traverses senior year and tries to convince her parents to let her follow her dreams and hone her talent? How about a book that also introduces teens to all the scholarships and grants out there for them to find to assist in their dreams?
Ephemie "Em" Katsaros has always wanted to be an actress -- and she's talented. Her lifelong dream is to become an actress, and her friends always call her "the dramatic one." Her parents, however, think that she should focus on applying to colleges with more practical programs. Her dad was recently laid off and her mother is a professor at Schuylkill University, where Em could attend without worrying so much about money. But she dreams of getting into a school with a great drama program, and knows she can't do so without help. She enters a speech competition for the US Youth Change Council and is chosen to be the State Representative and go to the National Competition. The only problem? Her classmate Kristopher Lambert is chosen as the male representative for New Jersey, and the two of them don't get along -- at all. At Nationals, there will be one winner, either a male or a female. Em is determined to win the competition and the scholarship money, so sets out to sabotage Kris -- but winds up feeling more for her former rival than she anticipated...
While the US Both Change Council is not a real competition, Bandeira modeled it after a few different programs because she anted her characters to experience a competition she had been part of in high school. She also gives advice to teens at the end about ways to apply for scholarships, which makes this novel an excellent resource for the college-bound.
What is so great about DRAMATICALLY EVER AFTER is the way one thing can help a person change and grow and step out of their comfort zone, something teens experience repeatedly in their teens. How many of us made lasting friendships or discovered live-long passions just by accidentally trying something new for the first time? Em enters the speech competition for the scholarship money, but comes out with so many more things that she cares about and wishes to participate in. She is truly ready to make a change in the world. This one competition helps her look t the future in new ways and start to develop who she is and what she wants in life, and is a time of great change. So many readers might dismiss this book -- this series, even, as just being "another teen romance." But it is so much more than that, especially for teens going through their senior year and experiencing all the changes that these characters go through. The future holds so much uncertainty, and it's nice to know they aren't alone, and to see how others start to navigate these unfamiliar waters and begin to discover themselves.
For example, once Em is at Nationals, she quickly discovers that she has her work cut out for her if she wishes to excel in her goals. Her speech, which she cobbled together with the help of her friends, was good, but has a lot of weak spots. The fact that she is a talented actress with great delivery assisted in her speech's strength. But now, she hears other competitors talking about her speech and the way she debates various issues at the conference with Kris. She immediately takes them to heart. Maybe she's horrible at writing speeches. Maybe she is all fluff and will never break outside of the way others have always seen her. Maybe she isn't as smart as others here. She never considers that others might be tearing her down out of jealousy, that she may be more talented than she thinks, that she's actually good at debate. Hearing all the naysayers makes Em work harder and try to change herself, and she doesn't even realize that all of her new experiences are making her even stronger and helping confirm and shape her beliefs, which will result in a vey different final speech.
The series is also held together by the strong friendship between Em and her best friends Phoebe Martins and Grace Correa. Each of the three books in the series centers around a different one of the friends. Each can be read on its own, and the series doesn't have to be read in order. DRAMATICALLY EVER AFTER is the second book in the series. In the first, BOOKISHLY EVER AFTER, we meet Phoebe, who is a bookworm. She has a crush on a boy and doesn't know how to act on it, so she turns to her favorite novels and makes a relationship manual based on their "advice" in order to change the way she interacts with guys. The book is sweet and easy and fun, especially if you love books about books, and introduces the girls and their friendship with one another. In the third book, PRACTICALLY EVER AFTER, which was published earlier this month, Grace experiences a lot of change as senior year comes to a close and everyone wonders, "What next?" What happens to your friendships, to your relationships, to your families? Why do so many adults not keep in touch with their high school best friends, or they're married to someone who wasn't their high school sweetheart? Are they all doomed, or can they make it work? This book strikes at the very real feel teenagers have as graduation looms and they are all about to embark in separate directions. Grace is also a fantastic character we need to see more of in YA. She's into math and science, a true STEM girl, and plans to be an engineer. She thinks she has the future all planned out, and is always making lists, but what if she doesn't know quite as much as she thinks she does, or realize that what she needs and what she thinks she needs aren't always the same?
If you're looking for a great series to read or to give as a gift this holiday season, consider the Ever After books by Isabel Bandeira, out now from Spencer Hill Press.
ABOUT DRAMATICALLY EVER AFTER:
Senior year is not shaping up to be the picture perfect movie Em Katsaros had imagined. Her super hot leading man is five thousand miles away. Her dad just got laid off. And Em can kiss her first-pick university goodbye if she doesn't snag a scholarship.
To turn this Shakespearean tragedy into the Academy Award-winning dream Em has written for herself, she enters a speech competition and manages to cinch a spot in the US Youth Change Council national round. She gets to spend a week in Boston and her prayers might be answered if she can kick butt and win one of the national scholarships.
Everything seems to be going by the script until she finds out Kris Lambert--senior class president, stuck-up jerk, and her nemesis--is going, too. Cue the dramatic music. In Boston, Kris is different. Nice. Cute, even. But she knows his game way too well--be nice to your opponents and then throw them under the bus on your way to victory. Instead of becoming his next victim, Em decides to turn the tables by putting her acting and flirting skills to work. Unfortunately, as they get close to the final competition and judging, reality and acting start to blur.
Can Em use the drama from the stage to get the future she's been dreaming of?