Release: February 15, 2011
What if your worst enemy turned out to be the best friend you ever had?Dissonance: a harsh sounding of notes that produces a feeling of tension and unrest
Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.
Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.
The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.
As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?
When I opened my copy of Rival, this piece of text hit me like a shocking opening note sung forte in a quiet auditorium. I could already feel the pressure, the tension, the ruthless rivalry rushing adrenaline-fast through my system, and I knew I was in for a dramatic competition of a story.
Rival took no time in proving me right. In alternating present and flashback sections, it immediately drags readers into the conflict between Brooke and Kathryn, spotlighting their tumultuous history as well as their current frigid feelings. Sara Bennett Wealer builds biting acrimony with characters' dialogue and by naming each section after a musical term meant to convey tension. From many authors, a plot based so heavily on social status and high school rivalries could have seemed trivial and silly, but Wealer keeps her conflict serious, never letting it slip into the land of cheap teen movies with cheesy cliques and overdone drama.
One reason this book's competition works so well is the way Wealer manipulates music to create a competition infused with passion. The characters' love of singing elucidates each one's willingness to do anything to win the Blackmore, giving their distrust a more compelling cause than typical high school drama. More importantly, though, their shared talent threatens to draw the two girls together as they are the only two people who understand each other's dedication to singing. Even at the height of their hatred, readers can see that Rival does not feature the stereotypical rivalry; it unfolds a relationship that still has so much potential, despite all that went wrong. Music allows Wealer to show that Brooke and Kathryn's shattered friendship is deeper than something out of an average tale of teenage attacks.
However, the real reason why all of Wealer's expertly-crafted drama works so well is that she strips it down so readers can see the emotions, inner thoughts, and true personalities of her two lead characters. In doing this, the author defies stereotypes and shows that each girl is not quite what she seems. At first, it appears that Brooke is the villain, the popular girl who convinced the entire school to turn on poor, victimized Kathryn, but through illuminating flashbacks, readers soon learn that the social-climbing soprano is no angel either. Because Wealer broke away from the cliché of the queen bee stomping on a girl of a lower caste, her tale of high school drama never feels like something that has been done before.
With an absorbing and deeply-rooted rivalry, Wealer tells a tale that gets everything right, from the thrill of a musical competition to the emotional impact of lost friendship. Faster-paced than a song sung presto and as satisfying as a perfectly-placed resolution, Rival is not be be missed.