Shannon in the Spotlight
Middle Grade Contemporary
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publishing Date: April 25, 2023
Page count: 272 pages
After Shannon accidentally lands a lead role in the summer musical, she realizes she has bigger things to worry about than stage fright in this contemporary middle-school novel about strained friendships, the positive power of theater, and the realities of being a tween with OCD.
Shannon Carter never considered herself much of a theater person. Not like her two BFFs, Elise, an actress, and Fatima, a techie. Shannon’s always been content to stay backstage, helping wherever she can. But when the director of the summer musical hears Shannon singing, he encourages her to step out of the wings and into the spotlight.
At first, Shannon is hesitant. As a twelve-year-old with obsessive-compulsive disorder, she depends on routine. But when she braves the audition, she discovers that center stage is the one place where she doesn’t feel anxious. She lands a lead role, and everyone in her life is ecstatic . . . except Elise.
To make matters worse, Shannon’s eccentric and opinionated grandmother moves in with her and her mom after a fluke house fire. As opening night approaches, Shannon feels pressure to save her friendship with Elise, to make Mom and Grandma Ruby act like grown-ups, and to follow the old theater adage The show must go on.
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A sensitive portrayal of a young girl’s struggle with OCD and the changing relationship with her best friend.
Shannon in the Spotlight is a new middle-grade novel by author Kalena Miller, and it features a tween struggling with OCD, friendship dramas, and a home life that suddenly feels out of control when her grandmother moves in with her and her mother. The main character, 12-year-old Shannon Carter, has enough on her plate with a sudden increase in the repetitive behaviors symptomatic of her OCD, such as washing her hands and reapplying Chapstick constantly throughout her waking hours. Her anticipation of the wonderful summer ahead, spending tie with her two besties on the summer musical, is almost palpable. And her distress and disappointment over how things pan out even more so. The hurt she experiences over Elise’s actions is gut-wrenching, and the girls’ resolution of their troubles is quite emotional. Shannon is one gutsy kid.
The setting within a community theater production of The Sound of Music was fun and full of little bits of theater business and traditions. That world can be all-consuming to its participants, so Elise’s devastation over her audition and subsequent casting as Louisa rather than the prime role of Brigitta was realistic. She’s also twelve and doesn’t handle her disappointment or jealousy over her friend’s good fortune very well. I loved how Grandma Ruby slowly inserted her way into the production and how she and Shannon were able to build a relationship with each other that was separate from the fallout of the rift she had with her own daughter. I also loved the close relationship Shannon shared with her mother.
With its sympathetic and engaging main character, the sensitive portrayal of her struggle with OCD and the changing relationship with her best friend, and the competitive, yet ultimately cooperative, community theater setting, I recommend SHANNON IN THE SPOTLIGHT to middle-grade readers, especially those looking for OCD representation in fiction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kalena Miller is a writer, teacher, editor, and scone enthusiast. She currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and lovable, if slightly neurotic, dog. When she isn’t writing, Kalena enjoys tap dancing, scrapbooking, and watching an embarrassing amount of reality television. Her debut YA novel, The Night When No One Had Sex, winner of the Minnesota Book Award, is available now! Her debut middle grade novel, Shannon in the Spotlight is forthcoming from Delacorte Press on April 25, 2023.
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