Author: Joanna Nadin
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release date: February 22, 2011
Source: ARC Tour run by I Read Banned Books
Summary: (from Goodreads) Sixteen-year-old Jude has to get out of tiny Churchtown. She has to escape her outcast status and her pathetic dad, who hasn’t gotten past her mother’s death. The one bright light is drama, her way out, if only she can get into the Lab, a prestigious program in London. Then Stella, Jude’s childhood best friend, swaggers in after years away. With bold and magnetic Stella by her side, Jude knows she’s capable of anything. But Stella’s influence extends well beyond the theater. Soon Stella’s wild and dangerous streak begins to cause trouble for Jude -- yet Jude can’t bring herself to abandon Stella and the attention she’s always craved. And besides, now that Stella’s back, there’s no stopping her. In Jude’s dark and tangled story, British author Joanna Nadin plumbs the aftermath of loss and the consequences of becoming the person you always wished you were.
First impressions: Jude and Stella open the book in a Thelma and Louise situation: cigarettes, lipstick, and a car at the edge of a cliff. Can you say "Grab on and don't let go?" I read this book in one sitting, because I just had to know how these girls got there.
Lasting impressions: This book is so well-crafted that although I had my suspicions as to where the story was going, I still couldn't quite believe it when I got my answer. This is one of those books where you have to flip back and read scenes again to see if you really missed it the first time.
Negative impressions: The ending is a bit trite and overplayed, but the story was so captivating and well done that I got over it. I mean, there are only so many plots in the world, and if I discarded every new book for having an element done before, I wouldn't be reading very long.
Overall impressions: This book had real heart. I loved Jude and her complicated relationships with her dead mother and distraught father. She feels trapped in her small town, but scared to pursue her acting dream for fear she will end up just like her mother. Her mom was a bright star that faded to nothing when they moved to their small town, and watching the depression wash over her was too much for Jude and her father to bear.
Jude feels ignored and invisible, with few friends and not much going for her...until Stella comes back. Stella was a childhood friend who had pulled Jude out of her shell until she disappeared and moved away. Now she's back, and Jude gets caught up in Stella's whirlwind energy and bad influence. With Stella, Jude starts partying, dressing sexier, and getting interested in boys. When she lands an audition at the prestigious Lab, her dream theater school in London, she and Stella take the train together and Jude nearly blows her chance.
Watching Jude's life get bolder and more outrageous is exciting until you see the scale tip in the wrong direction. When Jude goes to her audition, Stella is no longer the fun friend out to ensure they have a good time, she's an enabler who is controlling Jude's actions and dragging her down. It's heartbreaking to see Jude realize that Stella may not be the best thing in her life. This definitely struck a chord with me - the idea that sometimes your friends can harm you more than help you. Welcome to adulthood, Jude!
This story is quickly paced and full of all the pains of adolescence: first love, wild friends, dreams of grandeur, and absent parenting. Jude rises to the challenges presented by all of these, finding her own voice and strength of spirit to reclaim the hold on her life that Stella threatens to steal from her. Dramatic, harrowing, and real, Jude's tale will definitely make an impression.
Rating: 5/5 stars
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