Author: Zoe Thurner
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Date of Publication: May 2011
Length: 269 pages
From the Publisher: Lara Pearlman has an appetite for life. She loves acting, vintage clothes and her best friend Oggy. She flirts with Nathan but really likes Blake. She devours muffins with cream and chocolates by the box. Lara’s mum says big girls shouldn’t eat cream, but if rules are made to be broken then Lara’s the girl to do it.
I originally picked up Dress Rehearsal for two reasons. Firstly, Megan had told me about the cover and how beautiful it was (and I have to agree – the cover is gorgeous and I think the photo doesn’t quite do it justice, it’s so pretty). The second is that the novel is centred on a drama production at a small high school in Western Australia. I don’t quite know why, but I went into reading this was going to be a light-hearted romp about backstage blunders and showtunes. It wasn’t (at all), which was actually great and I really, really enjoyed it.Dress Rehearsal’s protagonist, Lara, is a bit of a girl after my own heart. She’s got a sweet tooth, a perchant for vintage clothes and an unrequited crush on the (slightly brooding and artistic) star of drama class, Blake. Lara is also having parental issues, facing constant criticism from her mum about her behaviour and appearance potentially having an adverse affect on the family’s reputation (her father is the manager of the town’s only bank) and is feeling the pressure of life in a small town. I felt like Lara is a character you can really get behind – she has a really distinctive and likeable voice (though I found a few of her actions baffled or annoyed me, they were the responses of a typical teenage girl) and I enjoyed reading about such an authentic young woman.
Plot wise, Dress Rehearsal is certainly not short on drama. Megan made an interesting point about Thurner managing to put such a lot into quite an average-sized novel – and I’d definitely agree! Dress Rehearsal is chock-full of action (from very typical small-town-teen stuff, to some really golden comedic moments to a few very intense scenes) and though there were parts where I felt somewhat overwhelmed, I was usually soothed quickly with a spot-on observation or great dialogue. Sorry if I'm being a bit vague with the plotline, but it has some very surprising/out there moments that I don't want to give away!
Most of the characters are very endearing and felt very real, I did also find myself wanting to know more about some of the minor characters like Tom and Danny (but that’s just me being greedy!). I feel a bit funny saying this (especially as I try to be a big believer in the no low/high art / YA fiction is no less important-and-awesome-and-worthy than adult fiction) but I felt like Dress Rehearsal was more ‘literary’ than other contemporary young adult fiction I’ve read lately. Thurner does a does a great job at capturing the mixed bag of emotions and experiences of growing up, and her prose is quite lovely and beautiful and really enjoyable to read.
A strong first novel and I look forward to (hopefully) reading more of Zoe Thurner’s work in the future.