Prom Kings and Drama Queens
Emily Bennett has goals for junior year: secure the role of editor in chief of the school newspaper, extract revenge on her former best friends Randy and Brandy, and win the heart of the super hottie next door. Most of all, though, she hopes to take the example of the hurricane off the coast of the same name and totally ROCK! As luck would have it, the pieces begin to fall into place when a school trip on the Conga Queen puts Emily in the role of matchmaker for the captain of the ship and the hottie next door’s grandmother. Suddenly she is spending a lot more time with her crush and things are beginning to heat up. When a journalism assignment forces her into contact with her nemesis, Daniel Cummings, however, Emily’s plans begin to go awry. In no time, she is torn between the boy of her dreams and her goals. Inspired by her lively elder neighbor and the residents of a local retirement home, Emily begins to find her voice and groove.
Emily is a wonderfully realized character who brings the story to life with her wit and honesty. She is truly torn between her hormones (Brian, the hottie next door) and her goals (journalism, activism, finding her voice), and her doubts and confusion are refreshingly presented. Though she makes the “right” decisions, she does not always do so for the “right” reasons, and she is suitably conflicted by this. Her willingness to stick to her word, despite the impact it is destined to have on her budding romance with Brian is both heartening and appealing. Further, her slow realization that she may have misjudged those around her feels very genuine.
As always Cirrone presents a cast of realistic and appealing characters who run the gambit from cheerleader fluff to anti-anything grrls. Particularly well drawn are the complex characters of Lily (the dancing grandma) and the foreign riverboat captain who is smitten with her. Each character feels complex and well developed, and even the villains (Randy and Brandy, for example) are not without their charms. Further, the teens are true to life both in sexuality and maturity. With the backdrop of prom preperations, these issues are heightened as adults become willing participants and even instigators in risky and promiscious behaviors and wanton consumption patterns.
Cirrone manages to criticize these excesses without seeming preachy or even, frankly, critical. Instead she allows the teens themselves to present their views, both for and against such traditions. The results are suitably complex and add to the characters’ feelings of conflict.
While Emily’s family is not particularly explored, the roles her parents play in her decision-making is notable and adds a refreshing degree of familial harmony and communication often missing in contemporary young adult fiction. In a field so often obsessed with broken homes and parental abandonment, Cirrone presents functional and flourishing familial ties that strengthen the character of children, teens, and adults.