Chasing the Spotlight

I received a complimentary copy of the book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

At a Glance

  • Author: Sarah Anne Sumpolec
  • Publisher: Focus on the Family (Tyndale House)
  • On-Sale Date: August 17th
  • Synopsis: For high school sophomore Amelia, the role of Peter Pan is so much more than just a part in a play. It’s her opportunity to finally convince her parents that she’s serious about her theatre involvement. With a year of acting experience under her belt, Amelia is certain that the title role is hers. After all, that is what God wants for her, right?
  • Recommendation: Recommended; See Content Concerns / Critique

Series

This is the fourth and, to my knowledge, final, book in the Riverbend Friends series from Focus on the Family. Each book is from the perspective of one of the four friends (Tessa, Shay, Izzy and Amelia) and is written by a different author. I have read books three and four and although the narratives are pretty much standalones, each book seems to summarize/reference the events of the preceding books.

Book 3: Chasing the Spotlight

Based on personality and interests, I found Amelia to be a relatable character, and she reminded me of my high school self. In fact, I learned a lesson right alongside Amelia, as I reflect on a play that I performed in (admittedly, just a few years ago). One line in particular stood out to me, and I think it would have been super helpful for me in past auditions, but I won’t quote it here, because I don’t want to spoil Amelia’s growth process.

Compared to book three, this book felt a lot more light and innocent in terms of subject matter. Book three was a bit heavier, while addressing important themes.

What I Liked

  • I really enjoyed the portrayal of the girls’ friendship! Amelia, Izzy, Tessa and Shay have agreed that honesty is the best policy. The girls tend to be pretty good influences for each other, and treat each other with kindness, respect and compassion. Plus, they encourage one another without being fake!
  • I feel that the author did an excellent job with the (very subtle) romance sub-plot.
    • I liked Sumpolec’s treatment of the relationship because it was a sweet and innocent relationship (which is something I look for in a book), but ALSO because I believe this is a realistic depiction of relationships.
    • I think that highschool boyfriends and girlfriends are more common in books/film than in real life. When I was in high school, most of my friends were not in relationships.
    • I also liked that the emphasis really was on friendship and getting to know each other.
  • I appreciated Amelia’s humility and willingness to admit her mistakes.

Content Concerns / Critique

  • Although the girls demonstrate a model (not perfect, but admirable) relationship in their friendship with each other, this cannot be said about relationships with parents (I’m basing this on books three and four). As in book three, there is a bit of disrespect going around.
    • I believe this is supposed to be realistic and relatable, but, particularly in this genre, I would like to see more examples of respect for parents and positive relationships with them.
    • This book doesn’t have a ton of disrespect, especially in comparison to books in the mainstream YA genre and we do see reconciliation but I think that the genre can do even better for young women. This critique is for the genre of Christian YA in general, not specifically/only about this book.
  • There are several references to “Indians” ( meaning Indigenous people), owing largely to the Peter Pan emphasis.
  • Definitely a side point but something I’m passionate about: One of the characters, Tessa, has a new half-sibling who came about through an affair. This is fairly peripheral to the book and Tessa does love her new baby brother (but it’s hard for her).
    • However, in general, I want to see so much more representation of being the half-sibling born from an affair, versus reading about how hard it is for the family that experiences the affair. Not because I condone affairs, but because the child born was sent here by God and had no control over their origin. I have seen firsthand how this is stigmatized, which is why I advocate for more representation from the other side. Again, this isn’t really a critique of this specific book, but it is something I’m passionate about, so I wanted to mention it.

Overall Impression

This was a fun read, one which I would especially recommend to a young lady who is interested in theatre.

Published by Stephanie Agnes-Crockett

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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