Author: Sara Bennett Wealer
Release date: February 15th 2011
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
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My rating: 4 out of 5 starsMeet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.
Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.
The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.
As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?
Rival had been on my TBR list for years before I finally picked it up. I had always had a good feeling about it but never got around to it - but now I know that good feeling was justified! From the very first page on, I loved Sara Bennet Wealer's writing, which carries the novel throughout.
What makes this novel so great are the characters. At first I was a little confused about the switches in POV along with the switches between junior and senior year, but you get used to it relatively quickly: it works because Brooke and Kathryn have very distinct voices. I loved both of these characters, although I would have to say I liked Brooke more. Kathryn is the one I thought I would relate to more, but she frustrated me a bit towards the end. Brooke, on the other hand, really surprised me; her character is complex and layered, and her insecurities are very relatable. Both characters are very realistic, and I loved seeing their relationship develop over the course of the novel. I especially appreciated how the novel focuses on the two characters as individuals, rather than letting any romantic storylines take center stage.
I know nothing about opera singing, but I really loved reading about it in Rival - this is such an interesting world to be immersed in! I've read plenty of books about artistic main characters, but this world was new to me, and I loved seeing how this world works. Both characters' passion for music really shines through in this novel.
The only part I didn't like quite as much is the popularity element of the novel. That whole thing is kind of melodramatic: it's so overdone how ridiculously "popular" and "powerful" Brooke's older brothers are, so powerful that they could ruin Kathryn's college experience because they have connections everywhere, and so on - all of that kind of annoyed me, to be honest. I didn't even really understand why Brooke is so popular, when she doesn't really care about any of the things her friends care about or seem to put any effort into it. The stuff Brooke's friends do to Kathryn are kind of childish, and I just liked the music part of the rivalry a lot more than the melodramatic popularity element.
But even when I got annoyed by parts of the novel, I couldn't stop reading: Sara Bennett Wealer's writing really got me emotionally invested in these characters and their story. I absolutely loved these characters, and even though I don't think it's a novel that will stay with me for too long, it's one I'd definitely recommend reading.