“No longer caged, I’m sprouting my wings and defying gravity.” – Carey Parker
“And nobody in all of Oz, no wizard that there is or was, is ever gonna bring me down!” – Elphaba Thropp
Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me an ARC.
Synopsis: Carey Parker wants to be a diva, much like their idol, Mariah Carey. Carey has the voice to make it big, and to stun audiences, but Carey holds back from singing their heart out. A past incident with a homophobic classmate, their grandmother’s dementia, and a fractured friendship weigh heavily on their mind and heart. And then Carey meets Cris, someone who sees Carey as they are. With Cris’s encouragement, Carey auditions for the part of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, in their high school’s production of Wicked. With Carey now in a literal spotlight, more prejudice is revealed at their school causing Carey and their friends to action.
Review: First things first, this book is amazing, and everyone should give Steven and Carey a standing ovation. Flipping the chapters between pronouns is an amazing touch that brings Carey to life and reminds cisgender readers like me the importance of using the right pronouns and respecting a person’s identity. Steven uses this book to portray another side of queer trauma while also showing queer joy. Steven has a lot of elements in this book, some major and some minor, but all important. From the queerphobia and prejudice Carey and others face at their school, to the realization that Carey has certain privileges. What I loved most about this book was that Carey again and again, finds the courage, whether from their friends, or from Mariah, to use their voice to either speak out or sing out. And as Carey learns, once they are flying, no one can bring them down.
There are two parts to this book that really resonated with me, the use of Wicked as the high school musical, and Carey’s grandmother.
Wicked: When each of my siblings became a b’nei mitzvah, my aunt and uncle would take them to see a musical on Broadway. When my bar mitzvah was approaching in 2004, it was my turn. They took me to see a musical that was relatively new, about a girl with a green skin. Yes, they took me to see Wicked. And I fell in love with it. The music and the story, I love a good origin story. Of course, I had to read the book that it was based on as well as the subsequent books in The Wicked Years series by Gregory Maguire.
Carey’s grandmother: In the last ten years of her life, possibly more, my dad’s mom was bedridden. When I was in high school, and after my grandfather passed away, she came to live with me and my parents. She hardly spoke, and it wasn’t always certain if she understood who was standing in front of her or if she knew what was going on. It was very difficult to see her like that. When I was in college, my parents had her moved to a nursing home, and in my senior year she passed away. I never had the relationship with any of my grandparents like Carey had with their grams, but I can understand that struggle of seeing someone you care about slowly deteriorate.
Release date: March 9th, 2021; Bloomsbury
Page count: 384
Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Audience: Young Adult