BWW Review: THIS TINY PERFECT WORLD by Lauren Gibaldi
Theatre life isn't for everyone. But how do you know if you never try?
Penny is excited she got into the highly competitive theatre camp program in Winter Park, Florida. She doesn't think she wants to be an actor for a living, or even that she's all that great at it, but she enjoys it and is ready to have the time of her life.
Penny gets cast as the understudy in Tennessee Williams' THE GLASS MENAGERIE. Which is actually really refreshing, because books always revolve around musicals and not full-on plays, unless they're Shakespeare. There's even a glass unicorn on the book's cover! Don't get me wrong, I love a good musical, and the novel is scattered with plenty of references, but it was invigorating to see that musicals aren't the be-all-and-end-all in the world of theatre.
Penny changes and evolves and grows so much throughout the book. She went to camp thinking she didn't want to be an actor. She wants to stay in her town her entire life and run her mother's diner. She wants to stay with her best friend and her boyfriend and have things be the way they always are. But this summer will change Penny deeply. Her relationships evolve and change and blossom. She takes the first step outside her shell and meets new friends. She begins to outgrow the town she calls home. She wonders if maybe there isn't more to life than she originally wanted or expected. At its heart, THIS TINY PERFECT WORLD is a story revolving around growing up and beginning to consider who you may want to become as an adult. It captures that beautiful moment of insecurity, of endless possibilities for the future, and it gives Penny all the potential and choices in the world. This is such an important fundamental building block of growing up and will resonate with readers young and old alike.
In addition to the journey of self-discovery, there is also a strong focus on relationships in THIS TINY PERFECT WORLD. Penny is being raised by her widowed father, and their relationship is fantastic and one of the highlights of the book. Her father's secret brings them even closer, and together, they are going to face the future head-on and stop being so afraid to try something new. He's super supportive and a great role model who only wants the best for his daughter, whatever she may want to do. He's also finally taking control of his own life and doing what he's always wanted to but always been afraid to. Both stories dovetail perfectly and are the core of the story. Friendship is another tier at the novel's heart. Penny loves her best friend and her boyfriend, but she really likes the people she's meeting at camp, too. She never loses her friendships at home, but she isn't afraid to go out with her new friends, either. They help her change and question and evolve, and ultimately, help her start questioning herself and who she wants to be in life. One of the new friends got a little annoying after a while, but was ultimately the catalyst to a discovery Penny needed to make, so it still worked in the end.
If you've ever been to theatre camp (or any camp) and want to relive your experiences, read this book. If you've ever questioned what you want in life, whether to stay or go, and all that it will entail, read this book. You just may see yourself between the pages!
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Penny loves her small-town Florida life, and she has her future mapped out. She's going to community college after graduation to stay close to home and her best friend, Faye. She'll take over the family diner that her dad has been managing since her mother died. And one day, she'll marry her high school sweetheart, Logan.
But when she unexpectedly lands a scholarship to a prestigious summer theater camp, she is thrust into a world of competition and self-doubt. And suddenly, her future gets a little hazy. As she meets new friends, including Chase, a talented young actor with big-city dreams, she begins to realize that maybe the life everyone (including her) expects her to lead is not the one she was meant to have.
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Lauren Gibaldi is a public librarian who's been, among other things, a magazine editor, high school English teacher, bookseller, and circus aerialist (seriously). She has a BA in Literature and Master's in Library and Information Studies. She lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband and daughter. Her books include THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, AUTOFOCUS, and the forthcoming THIS TINY PERFECT WORLD.