Summer is here! It’s been really sunny here in the UK lately, meaning I’ve had lots of time to read in the sunshine. I ended up re-reading lots of manga during my time off work, but also picked up a new book that was very kindly sent to me by the lovely people at Usborne. Theatrical is Maggie Harcourt’s latest book, and after loving her first YA title Unconventional, I knew I’d love this one too.
Hope is happiest out of the spotlight working backstage at her local theatre, so she can’t believe her luck when she lands a top internship on a major show. However, with a Hollywood star cast in the lead, and his young understudy upstaging Hope’s heart, she soon wishes life would stick to the script.
Hope has to prove she’s got what it takes. But with a big secret and so much buzz around the show, it isn’t long before she finds herself centre stage…
So this was such a sweet easy-going read, something that’s been nice to use as a break from heavy fantasy and magic (as much as I love those types of books!). It follows the story of Hope Parker, who is the daughter of famous designer Miriam Parker, and as obsessed with the theatre as her mum. Rather than being interested in the fashions and costume, Hope is far more preoccupied helping on the sidelines as stage management. She works part-time at her local theatre, but is determined to one day work at one of the well-known ones. When an interview for an internship goes in her favour, Hope wonders whether she’s been thrown into the deep end with the sudden responsibility as duty stage management. Suddenly there’s a lot more people to take care of and control, including stroppy Hollywood star Tommy Knight, his studious and handsome understudy Luke, and a whole host of crew members who want to make sure she truly belongs.
The pacing of this book is really gripping, as straight away you are thrown into how hectic Hope’s life becomes: making tea for the entire cast and crew while following a strict list, juggling ten tasks at once, and even dealing with groups of fans waiting at the door just to get a glimpse of Tommy. It’s hectic, it’s busy and it’s…fun. Hope has so much fun learning about the theatre, and how important her role becomes in pulling the show together. She makes new friends, falls in love with the theatre and a boy, and watches the show grow from stumbling line rehearsals to a smooth, full product. It’s well paced, the writing in terms of detailing the theatre is intricate and well researched – Maggie Harcourt has said in her little author Q&A at the back of the book that she visits the theatre quite a lot, and this love and passion definitely bleeds into the story.
Hope is a determined character, desperate to be out of the shadow of her mother, and wanting to carve her own path on her own. Unfortunately for Hope, things do go a little wrong with this type of thinking, especially when she tries to shoulder all the responsibility while also trying to hide the truth from her mum. It’s interesting to see Hope’s struggle as things get harder and harder to hide, but while also trying not to be the person who only gets the job because of her parents. Hope doesn’t want to be “Miriam Parker’s daughter” in these situations, she just wants to be “Hope”. She thrives to be seen as individual, and to earn her place behind the scenes. As things get closer to opening night, it becomes harder for her to keep things under her control.
The romance in the book was sweet – it wasn’t forced, it wasn’t instant, and the two characters had definite feelings for each other without coming across as one sided or dull. It was a new, budding romance, with the characters admitting to each other they had feelings, and sharing moments together to build that relationship rather than coming across as a bit too shallow.
I also loved how this book linked to the previous one, Unconventional. The two aren’t continuous as they’re standalone books, but there are some references through Theatrical that make the two books have crossover. The whole theatre production is based on the book Piecekeepers, a book within this book which has the same sort of fan following as Harry Potter. There are cameo appearances from some favourite characters of the previous novel too, and fans will be pleasantly pleased to see who it is, as I was very excited when I got to that page.
Final thought: A lovely, sweet story, full of theatrical heart. 4.5/5