Twelve-year-old Mattie wrestles with her crush on Gemma as they participate in their school production of Romeo and Juliet in what School Library Journal calls “a fine choice for middle school libraries in need of accessible LGBTQ stories.”
Twelve-year-old Mattie is thrilled when she learns the eighth grade play will be Romeo and Juliet. In particular, she can’t wait to share the stage with Gemma Braithwaite, who has been cast as Juliet. Gemma is brilliant, pretty—and British!—and Mattie starts to see her as more than just a friend. But Mattie has also had an on/off crush on her classmate Elijah since, well, forever. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls?
If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things offstage are beginning to resemble their own Shakespearean drama: the cast is fighting, and the boy playing Romeo may not be up to the challenge of the role. And due to a last-minute emergency, Mattie is asked to step up and take over the leading role—opposite Gemma’s Juliet—just as Mattie’s secret crush starts to become not-so-secret in her group of friends.
In this funny, sweet, and clever look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to become a lead player in her own life.
A star student falls for the lead actress of her school play in this welcome addition to the middle grade LGBTQ bookshelf. Mattie Monaghan is looking forward to her eighth grade production of Romeo and Juliet as well as getting to know her new crush, Gemma. Mattie's friend Tessa has been to theater camp and bandies Shakespearean insults with gusto ("vile worm," "scurvy knaves"), while beautiful, British Gemma is a shoo-in for Juliet. Mattie revels in the Bard's words but is less confident in performing. When a classmate struggles as Romeo, Mattie is asked to step into the role, bringing her dizzyingly close to Gemma. Dee (Truth or Dare) thoughtfully dramatizes the intricate social performance of middle school, with its secret crushes and fierce rivalries. The book benefits from a memorable cast, though some of the students' analysis of the play feels forced. Mattie's narration is intimate and believable, and readers will be pleased to watch her grow from spectator to star. And although the ending is predictable, the tension holds. After all, even Romeo and Juliet's fates are sealed in the play's prologue. Ages 9 13.