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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Only in the Movies, written by William Bell. Random House, 2010. $14.95 ages 12 and up

"But for all the difference it made, I might as well have sent her a dead mouse. Days went by without any acknowledgement from Alba that I had poured my heart out to her. When I was able to find her alone in class or in the halls and say hello to her, she was friendly but cool and reserved. What was going on?"

Jake is like his father, an excellent carpenter. His father's dream is for Jake to join him in his construction business. Jake has other aspirations and is concerned to share them with his parents; so he is surprised when his father accepts that Jake's dream differs. He does all he can to help Jake get into the arts school that will help Jake with his career as a movie-maker. It is, in fact, his father's brilliant idea that gets him a spot at York.

His tenth grade year offers coures in creative writing, drama and English. There he meets two students who will become important to him, for very different reasons. His set building abilities got him a place at his new school and he is soon busy putting together a backdrop for a production of Taming of the Shrew. He is also named stage manager. His interest in Alba has been thwarted by her interest in Chad. Jake begs his new friend, Vanni, to help him in his quest to win Alba's heart. As luck would have it, Chad and Alba have a falling out and Jake thinks he might finally have a chance. When his father is taken to the hospital emergency room, Jake is surprised to find he wants to share his concern and news with an unexpected love.

I so admire William Bell's ability to create characters. Instant Grady and Vanni O'Riada provide the comic relief in this high school story about infatuation, friendship, love lost and found, and the inevitable twists and turns that come with growing up and learning about yourself as a person. Jake is an intense, likeable main character whose insecurities reflect much of what all teenagers feel when trying to deal with this thing called 'life'.

This is a worthy addition to William Bell's bibliography and will be enjoyed by many, especially those who have an abiding interest in theatre and the movies.

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