A wonderful journey into the world of musicals for young readers with many talking points along the way.
Over many decades, the Australian education system has eroded our arts programs down to a shadow of their former self. Despite many studies that show the worth of children playing music and engaging in any of the arts, it is constantly defunded and scaled down in all but the most elite schools. It is no wonder that many creative types either give up or move to another country.
Australian author Nat Amoore’s latest book is a wonderfully engaging young adult read. She has created a vast world of larger-than-life characters that her younger readers will devour and connect with.
Mac Fleetwood Cooper (named after his mother’s favourite band) has a love of musical theatre which goes against the grain of his mother who is a big fan of classic rock. When he is invited to join a secret society of music theatre lovers, his world is opened to the magic and communal nature of musical theatre. One of his favourite teachers—Mr. Deery—is the first to realise the love the young boy has for this genre and brings him into the secret society. There he meets the Tourette’s-afflicted Flynn who is a bright, young musician with a deep passion for composing. Amoore’s writing of this character is a little hard to get around at first, and can be very distracting, but becomes easier as the book goes on. There are also a number of other adults, also well written and fleshed out, who guide Mac through his introduction to what it means to see live theatre.
His whole world turns, however, when he finds out that his principal is planning on streamlining the arts program to one subject to be taught by the Physical Education teacher (it might sound ridiculous, but unfortunately it is not!). This inspires him to rally his organisation, and Flynn, to stage a musical to save the program. Ultimately, Mac and Flynn are forced to write their own musical in the hope of drawing attention to the plight of the arts.
Amoore writes her novel in a bright, bold style that is perfect for the younger bracket she is aiming at. It helps if the reader knows the various songs she parodies throughout (usually at the start of each chapter, cleverly changed to Act and Scene) although this is not essential.
There is a lovely wonderment in the first person narration that will immerse the readers in the world of Mac and his friends and Amoore is skilled at making the characters interesting whilst keeping the story going. This novel will open up much discussion in the importance of music (and the arts) in our lives as well what Tourette’s syndrome is (and isn’t). It will also, hopefully, help to de-stigmatise the world of musical theatre for younger listeners who are drawn in by the music of films like Frozen and its sequel.
This is a great read for children aged between 11 and 14 and there is much for others to get from this book as well.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Published by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: June 2021
This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.