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You in Five Acts

Review

You in Five Acts

A thrilling story of love, loss and fulfilment, YOU IN FIVE ACTS follows the point of view of five best friends, Joy, Diego, Liv, Dave and Ethan, in their second semester of senior year at a prestigious performing arts high school. With showcase looming, tensions start to rise between the characters, causing them to take unforgivable risks that have disastrous consequences.

I was incredibly eager to start YOU IN FIVE ACTS when it came into my mailbox. As a high school student involved in drama club, I always look to find theater arts novels with characters that share my passion for the stage. LaMarche’s story perfectly fulfills the requirements that I have for a pitch-perfect performing arts plotline.

Firstly, I look for the author’s ability to develop conflict. If a writer wants to tell a story with theater arts as a primary component, the struggle that the characters face can’t simply be the desire to be the lead in a production or be with a fellow costar romantically. Pursuing work professionally in the entertainment industry is a very difficult feat for anyone to accomplish, especially for teenagers when other priorities are starting to take shape within their lives. The development of the plot has to display the complexity of breaking out into the performing arts field. LaMarche completes this first target with ridiculous accuracy.

"I completely fell in love with LaMarche’s creation, specifically for its take on the performing arts world and the issues that surround the community....If you are a passionate theater lover and book nerd like I am, this is the perfect book for you to divulge yourself into without any regrets."

Going into YOU IN FIVE ACTS, I had little idea of what to expect from the plotline, as the synopsis was relatively vague. All I knew was that it was a multi-perspective novel that was focused on performing arts --- intriguing enough for me. The intricacy of the plotline completely blew me away from the first page. The struggles that the characters go through are so personal, reflecting in their upbringing and the field they wish to pursue professionally. When facing these circumstances, many of the characters take risks that are very unhealthy. By giving each character an “act” from their point of view, LaMarche takes the opportunity to explore the questionable decisions the characters make in response to the circumstances presented before them. This set-up of the novel presents the character as very real, honest and humane. I can honestly say that I would not be surprised to see walking images of these characters in present day society --- a true testament to LaMarche’s ability to craft characters. As for romantic relationships, I believe they are beautifully executed within the storyline. The relationships help to not only provide another layer of conflict for the friends, but a means of confidentiality between the two partners that allows them to have a manner of relieving stress and tensions from their pursuits of fame. The romantic relationships do not distract from or romanticize the very authentic struggles the characters face, which is ultimately ideal.  

Next, I look to see unique characters presented within the novel. The performing arts world is becoming increasingly more diverse with each passing second. People of all different races, sizes and sexualities are seen in the performing arts world, whether it be on a stage or on screen. Novels that look to best encapsulate this environment need to display diverse characters with accuracy. Again, LaMarche adds to the intricacy of her characters by making them incredibly standout from one another.

I believe the most prominently developed of all of LaMarche’s characters is Joy, an African American, body positive teen who looks to pursue a career as a professional dancer. Throughout the novel, Joy is critiqued for her weight by her dance teacher. Many times she is told to “slim down,” but constantly turns the other cheek. Her race is also a prominent setback to her performance, as not many African American dancers become household legends. Joy sites the statistic 1/1086 to reflect her odds in making it into the industry. These possible setbacks and fears cause Joy to place a prominent amount of stress upon herself to be successful. When she ends up putting too much strain on her body, Joy has to confront her future as a dancer.

LaMarche’s other characters are developed similarly in an exquisite fashion. I had not expected to see such unique characters in YOU IN FIVE ACTS, but I was definitely ecstatic to see such positive representation throughout the piece. The amount of diversity within this story was very impressive. Although I do not want to spoil any part of the novel, I was pleasantly surprised to see the manner in which LaMarche uses the diverse elements within her story to create standout commentary on society. I was definitely not expecting its prominence in the storyline, but I was overjoyed that LaMarche took the opportunity to address such important issues, as many others in the theater world use their platform to do similarly.

Finally, I look for unique writing structure. As theater people tend to be creative, a writer that wants to tell their story needs to introduce a new element to the text structure that will intrigue the audience and lure them into the story.

LaMarche uses the second person throughout each of the acts as a manner for each of the characters to refer to another in their group that they show prominent regard towards. For example, in the act from Joy’s point of view, she refers to herself as “I,” all the other characters as “he” or “she,” and the one specific friend within the group of five that she esteems as “you.” This writing structure can definitely be confusing in the beginning, but it becomes easier to adjust to the farther into the novel the reader gets. The writing style definitely lures the audience in and gets them to question the reason for such a quirky set-up. To further captivate the audience, LaMarche sets a countdown at the start of each of the chapters, preparing the audience for an explosive ending. This unique platform for the novel felt very much in-tune with the creativity of the world in which LaMarche focuses on within YOU IN FIVE ACTS.

In all, I completely fell in love with LaMarche’s creation, specifically for its take on the performing arts world and the issues that surround the community. It also helps that LaMarche took the opportunity to reference some of my most beloved items within the Broadway community (i.e.: Lin Manuel Miranda and “Newsies”). If you are a passionate theater lover and book nerd like I am, this is the perfect book for you to divulge yourself into without any regrets.

Reviewed by Gabby B., Teen Board Member on December 13, 2017

You in Five Acts
by Una LaMarche