It’s the beginning of eighth grade, and Nat Beacon is nervous. Not only will she be the New Kid, but the New Kid in a Wheelchair. And the school year starts off rocky: No one seems friendly, and she can’t get to the cafeteria without help. But there are a few bright spots. Namely, her best friend, Hudson; her boyfriend, Malik; and her favorite: theater. This year, there’s a middle school theater competition, and any production that wins their regional competition will get the chance to perform—on an actual Broadway stage!
Nat couldn’t be more excited. This is her chance to make it big and prove she belongs at her new school! She wows the director and gets cast in the school Footloose! But rehearsals are stressful. Dance diva Skye wants more complex choreography, Malik keeps flaking for band practice, and Hudson gives Nat the cold shoulder, leaving Nat confused and alone. Nat starts to wonder whether she can really carry the show to Broadway and whether, without her friends, it’s worth doing theater at all.
Yet another sequel I wasn’t expecting. Nat Beacon is back!
Like the first book, this story has authentic wheelchair-user representation and provides able-bodied kids with a better understanding of the challenges and injustices that wheelchair users go through. For example, the school Nat goes to is not handicapped-accessible. The cafeteria is in the sub-basement, and the only wheelchair-accessible bathroom is on the second floor. Also, why is it that the school aide is always a loud, overly cheerful woman in every middle school novel? Quoting Pierce Hawthorne from the sitcom Community, “Is this a new stereotype?”
There is so much drama on and off stage. Most of the drama could have been prevented if they had all had an honest conversation instead of bottling up their feelings. Communication is important between friends. I know it’s hard to get your words out, but it’s better to let your feelings out than to let them boil inside you.
The one character I want to rant about is Skye. Ugh. This girl was awful. Skye is the stereotypical ‘it’ girl who thinks she’s all that. She’s a kickline dancer who wants to be cast as Ariel so she can show off her high-kick dancing skills. She’s angry that she has to ‘dull down’ her performance to dance alongside Nat, who can’t exactly do high kicks. It broke my heart to see Nat trying so hard to impress this girl who only saw Nat as an obstacle holding her back.
The descriptions of the rehearsals stressed me out. Are all middle school theater performances this intense? I know they were competing to perform on Broadway, but still. The director was putting way too much pressure on these kids.
I thought it was odd how the authors, Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz, chose the musical Footloose for Nat to star in, while another competing school was performing Oklahoma, the play that Ali Stroker appeared in on Broadway. I guess they didn’t want Nat’s story to mirror her own experiences too much.