the best friends you’ll never have

Stage Fright was actually published before Me and Katie (The Pest), but due to issues with access to the book, I only read it this week.

Anyway, Stage Fright is a story about Sara, Wendy’s best friend in Me and Katie. As you may have guessed from the title, this book deals mainly with Sara’s experience with stage fright. Her class is putting on a play, and her teacher is making everyone participate, whether they want to or not.

I had a lot of issues with two adults in particular in this book: Sara’s mother and Sara’s teacher. Throughout the book, Sara’s mother is constantly pressuring her to be someone totally different, someone who loves the limelight and loves socializing. Basically, she is setting Sara up to have very low self esteem and to feel like the way she is naturally isn’t ever going to be good enough. This also causes constant friction between her parents, and I can easily see it leading to even divorce. It’s not enough that Sara has two good friends, because, as Sara’s mom says, one is her cousin and one (Wendy) might move soon. Sara should socialize and react to social situations the way her mother wants.

This all comes to a head with the play, because the teacher is insistent that everyone play a role, even though she has kids literally crying at the thought of having to perform on stage. Sara’s mom overhears Sara saying that she didn’t try her best at the auditions because she didn’t want a big part, and her mom yells at her. Sara’s teacher also gives Sara a kind of big part, even though Sara had spoken to her–privately and politely–about her qualms about performing. Sara’s teacher makes a point about performing on stage being a good experience to have, to which I say “Bullshit.” It is not a requirement for life, and there are many, many jobs and ways to live where one would never, ever have to go on stage. I absolutely do not see why the teacher insisted that everyone act, and if you have kids crying and freaking out and coming to you privately, let some of them just stand around on the stage without any lines. Let them be a tree or a bush.

Sara’s mom not only sees being able to perform on stage as a requirement for a successful life, but also she thinks that Sara needs to enjoy parties. This is also not a requirement for living. There is nothing wrong with only having a small group of close friends, and not enjoying hanging out in large groups. At the end of the book, Sara’s mom tells her that she only acts this way because she cares, and wants Sara to be happy. The way she goes about it, however, would most likely have the opposite effect, and would result in Sara feeling like her nature and her personality are wrong, and not good enough. It would be far more effective if Sara’s mother acted like Sara’s father, who accepts Sara for who she is and does not think that she needs to change to be happy.

I think a good contrast to Sara and her mother would be Richard and Mary Anne’s relationship, where Richard is, for the most part, except for not really realizing that Mary Anne is twelve and not six, supportive of Mary Anne and her nature, and doesn’t try to force her into situations she doesn’t want to be in, and listens to her needs. (Perhaps this is because Richard is also a quiet sort of person who enjoys sitting around and listening to jazz and not going to wild parties.) Over the course of the series, we see Mary Anne come out of her shell a little bit, and I think that her ability to do this on her own is partially because she has such a supportive parent in her corner. I feel sad for Sara because I don’t see things with her mother getting better, or her mother ever realizing that some people are shy, and that’s totally okay and a valid way to live your life. Sara does get a little more assertive over the course of book, and yells a little bit at Wendy, who is Kristy-esque, but I don’t see it as being a lasting change in her life. Soon she will be a teenager, and her mother will bug her about not going on dates, and Sara will continue to feel like there is something wrong with the way she is.

Stray thoughts:

  • The candy store in the book is called “Jugtown.”
  • Ann finally set a book in New Jersey. Yay!
  • The subplot about Wendy potentially moving is not set up very well, and is resolved in an anti-climatic way. It would have been more dramatic if Wendy did move, but I guess Ann wanted to write the next book. This whole subplot could have been left out and it wouldn’t have really made much a difference.

    External links:
    BSC Snark of Stage Fright

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