Review: Playing Juliet by JoAnne Stewart Wetzel

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Playing Juliet by Joanne Stewart Wetzel

Beth Sondquist, age twelve and a half, dreams of playing the part of Juliet. For now she’s just the cat in Cinderella, but one day, she’s determined to become a real actress. But all her hopes for an acting career come crashing down when the Oakfield Children’s Theater is slated to be closed. Its new owner has decided to make it into an adult theater, a real theater. Beth and her best friend, Zandy, are willing to do whatever it takes to save the theater, but their plans quickly go awry. When Beth’s father catches her sneaking back into her bedroom window well past bedtime, Beth is in big, big trouble.

With eviction looming, the children’s theater director decides to close the theater with the same play the theater opened with fifty years ago—Romeo and Juliet. But Beth’s grounded for the next two weeks, and she won’t be able to try out. How will Beth pull off playing Juliet if she can’t even make tryouts?

Title: Playing Juliet
Author: JoAnne Stewart Wetzel
Publication date: November 3, 2015

I received Playing Juliet from Sky Pony Press in exchange for an honest review.

Beth loves acting even though she’s nowhere near to being the star at the Oakfield Children’s Theather. It’s nice to see a book about a kid who’s pretty much just one of the crowd even though she’s involved in an activity that’s a little unusual. It makes it easier for the average kid — or person — to relate to her.

Beth dreams of playing Juliet at Oakfield one day, and her dreams go beyond that. Even though she’s only twelve (and a half) and very inexperienced, she knows she wants to be a professional actress. But her parents have other plans for her, wanting her — and maybe pushing her a bit — to follow her father into a law career. It’s not their fault exactly; Beth hasn’t told them what she wants and never speaks up when they talk of her becoming a lawyer. She’s young and there’s will be time for that, especially after she’s had more experience — and bigger parts — in theater. She has plenty of time.

Except she’s just found out that Oakfield is closing and since her parents have vetoed real acting lessons in San Francisco, her only option will be to wait until high school and join the drama department.

After Beth gets grounded, her parents won’t let her try out for the final play, Romeo & Juliet, and Ms. Mac, the director, won’t give her a part in the play if she doesn’t make auditions. She can’t even work on the crew because she misses the first meeting. I thought it was a little unfair of her parents. Yes, sneaking out at night was wrong and potentially dangerous, but it’s the final play, probably the last time she will see most of the others kids and adults involved with the company. Oakfield has clearly meant a lot to Beth even though her parents don’t know of her dreams.

I didn’t agree with every decision Beth makes — like sneaking out multiple times! — but I felt for her losing her theater, the one place she loves the most. Her immature moves are made out of desperation to save the theater in any way possible. That she doesn’t think everything through is to be expected at her age.

I know very little about the theater and acting, preferring to watch TV and movies to live performances, but I loved this book. It was so interesting to read about what goes into putting on a production. I read this book in November and it’s still one of the books I enjoyed the most in the past few months. I don’t keep most of the books I read, but I’ll probably be keeping Playing Juliet.

five stars
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Jenna