We all love a book with some drama every now and then, and we're not just talking backstabbing classmates and cheating partners. Books that marry performing arts drama with real life issues are some of our favorites; now put them in the YA category and they're pretty much an auto-read. There's just something about bringing together the high stakes structure of the stage with the all too familiar issues we all deal with, from best friend break-ups to blossoming new romance. Adding in 90s girl groups, a capella in drag, and teen actors moving next door definitely ups the ante, both on the entertainment and the page-turning obsession. Not only do these books look at both the bright and dark sides of the arts we love to consume, they explore what it means to be famous, or just to be creative, and to live a life defined by what we make.
Luckily for all of us, there are tons of great drama-filled releases out this year, some utilizing modern retellings of famous stories like Shakespeare plays, others taking familiar tropes and turning them on their heads. We've got nine newly released books that with casts of characters that you're definitely going to want to live vicariously through. If all the world's a stage, we're totally OK with being the players off to the side with our nose in a book, watching it all unfold.
1'Seeking Mansfield' by Kate Watson (May 16, 2017)
Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram's son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver's encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she'd finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater. But when teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door, they set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver's stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, he's falling for her, too. But Finley doesn't want to be won, and she doesn't want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver's heart—and keep her own—she'll have to find the courage to step into the spotlight.
2'Speak of Me As I Am' by Sonia Belasco
Melanie and Damon are both living in the shadow of loss. For Melanie, it's the loss of her larger-than-life artist mother, taken by cancer well before her time. For Damon, it’s the loss of his best friend, Carlos, who took his own life. As they struggle to fill the empty spaces their loved ones left behind, fate conspires to bring them together. Damon takes pictures with Carlos’s camera to try to understand his choices, and Melanie begins painting as a way of feeling closer to her mother. But when the two join their school’s production of Othello, the play they both hoped would be a distraction becomes a test of who they truly are, both together and on their own. And more than anything else, they discover that it just might be possible to live their lives without completely letting go of their sadness.
3'Foolish Hearts' by Emma Mills (October 3, 2017)
The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.
4'Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined' by Danielle Younge-Ullman
Ingrid traveled all over Europe with her opera star mother, Margot-Sophia. Life was beautiful and bright, and every day soared with music. Now Ingrid is on a summertime wilderness survival trek for at-risk teens: addicts, runaways, and her. She’s fighting to survive crushing humiliations, physical challenges that push her to her limits, and mind games that threaten to break her. When the curtain fell on Margot-Sophia’s singing career, they buried the past and settled into a small, painfully normal life. But Ingrid longed to let the music soar again. She wanted it so much that, for a while, nothing else mattered. But Ingrid is never going to make it through this summer if she can’t figure out why she’s here . . . and why the music really stopped.
5'Aftercare Instructions' by Bonnie Pipkin (June 27, 2017)
Genesis is known as "troubled" in her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything. As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.
6'Noteworthy' by Riley Redgate (May 2, 2017)
It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theater world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight. Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. They are worshiped, revered...and all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.
7'The Life Fantastic' by Liza Ketchum
It’s 1913, and vaudeville is America’s most popular form of entertainment. In Brattleboro, Vermont, 15-year-old Teresa LeClair—who has a “voice like a nightingale”—remembers the thrill of singing onstage as a child. But her parents have given up life on the road, and her father has decided that Teresa should drop out of school and work in the tuning rooms of the organ factory. Determined to escape the life her father wants for her, Teresa wins an amateur singing contest in Brattleboro’s opera house and steals away on the night train to New York. She hopes to become a star on Broadway but has no idea of the challenges that lie ahead. There she runs into Pietro Jones and his father, talented African-American dancers. Teresa and Pietro become competitors as well as unlikely friends. At a time when young black men could be lynched for simply looking at a white girl, Pietro understands, better than Teresa, the danger of their relationship. Teresa’s quest to find her voice onstage and in her life, far from the support of her family, takes place against a complex racial backdrop of American history.
8'Fireworks' by Katie Cotugno
It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along. But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where producer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars. It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift... and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.
9'Grace and the Fever' by Zan Romanoff (May 17, 2016)
In middle school, everyone was a Fever Dream fan. Now, a few weeks after her high school graduation, Grace Thomas sometimes feels like the only one who never moved on. She can't imagine what she'd do without the community of online fans that share her obsession. Or what her IRL friends would say if they ever found out about it. Then, one summer night, the unthinkable happens: Grace meets her idol, Jes. What starts out as an elusive glimpse of Fever Dream's world turns into an unlikely romance, and leads her to confront dark, complex truths about herself and the realities of stardom.