BWW Review: LOOK BOTH WAYS by Alison Cherry
Theatre has always appealed to me, even though I don't have the skills or stage presence to be a talented actor. That's the great thing about books: You can be anyone and do anything. For the time you're reading, you're not you. I love books related to stage theatre and Hollywood alike, and get really excited when I find something new--especially when that something is Broadway-related. When I found out that Alison Cherry's brand-new novel LOOK BOTH WAYS took place in this world, I was completely in and couldn't wait to get my hands on the book. I'd previously read and enjoyed her debut novel RED.
It's hard not to instantly feel invested in Brooklyn's journey. All her life, she's dreamed of being onstage. Her mother has won a Tony Award and her father has won a Drama Desk Award. Whenever theatre people find out that Brooklyn's mother is the one and only Lana Blake Shepard, they always ask if it's "amazing" having her as a mother. Brooklyn hates the fact that she's less than adequate compared to her parents and vows that this summer is going to change everything. She's been accepted into the prestigious Allerdale Playhouse's summer-stock program. Her entire family has been to Allerdale, and she just knows that the training and masterclasses she'll receive there will make her the actress she's always been destined to become.
Only, it's not that easy. Brooklyn isn't cast in a single show, not even as a spear-holder. She's only been given tech jobs such as learning about lighting and designing sets, save for a weird, experimental show that doesn't even have a proper script. After realizing her mother must have pulled strings to get her into Allerdale, she completely freaks out and vows that nobody can know who her mother is or they'll know just how talentless she is.
Brooklyn spends most of her nine weeks at Allerdale floundering, but after a tragic accident, she discovers where her talents lie and finally begins discovering who she is, what she wants, and how she might still fit into the crazy world of theatre that she was born into.
LOOK BOTH WAYS is a quintessential coming of age story. Most teenagers don't know what they want in life, especially when there's a lot of pressure from parents to walk a certain path in life. What's ironic is that Brooklyn has been looking forward to the summer in order to find her place in the world, and she does--but she finds it where she least expects to.<
Her family isn't cold and uptight, either, unlike in so many books where the pressure on a teen to succeed comes from the very exacting parents. Brooklyn's family is zany and fun. Every Monday night, they get together with friends for impromptu performances the likes of which you often hear actors reminisce fondly about. Brooklyn's mom is super carefree, too. Unlike a lot of moms, she wants Brooklyn to experiment more. She wants her to try dating a girl. She's appalled to hear that Brooklyn is still a virgin. She wants her to keep her options open and is a great, supportive mother, even when Brooklyn can't always see that.
Brooklyn is less adventurous than her mother and has never tried to stand out. She's not as adverse to trying new things as her mother might believe, however. Brooklyn tries a lot of new things during her summer at Allerdale, and some work out better for her than others. By the end of her time there, she's finally beginning to find her place in the world and accept who she is and what she could potentially want in life. When the opportunity rises to take part in a 24 hour play festival, where everyone has to write, rehearse, and perform original short plays within a single day, she decides to break free of the mold and try something zany and new. When she starts having more than friendly feelings for her roommate Zoe, she decides to act on them and see where they take her. She's not sure if she likes girls, but she definitely likes Zoe. Once she's with Zoe, however, she misses the way they were before. Brooklyn doesn't really know if she's straight or if she's bi or what she is. I actually wonder if she might be asexual, but that path is never fully explored. The book isn't really centered around romance, though. It's more about self-discovery.
The novel captures that sensation of never knowing quite what you want, of feeling free to experiment and try new things, of discovery. All teenagers go through this, and Cherry captures the experience well in LOOK BOTH WAYS. I read this book in one sitting because I cared so much about Brooklyn and the path she was haphazardly carving for herself in life.
If you want a fun, easygoing story set in the world of theatre and summer experiences, you won't regret picking up LOOK BOTH WAYS!
***LOOK BOTH WAYS by Alison Cherry was released on June 14, 2016 from Delacorte Press // Random House.