Subject: Fresh Start
Listening to: Medea (the opera named for the mythological woman who killed her kids just to bug her ex-husband ... Reminds me of my mother.)
Weight: 112 lbs.
For most people, the word "diva" means brilliant, talented, over-the-top, and glamorous. I, however, seemed to be trapped in the not-very-glamorous life of a cheerleader wannabe with serious ex-boyfriend issues and a permanent yo-yo diet. At least until the day I auditioned for Miami High School of the Arts -- and got in! All I had to do was convince my mother, the cosmetics salesperson with epically bad taste in clothes and men, that going downtown to hang with the music geeks was a good idea. I had to blackmail her to be able to do it, but I'm here -- a diva-in-training -- and I'm not so sure I can cut it.Now what?"
Awards & Reviews:
Determined to become an opera diva, 16-year-old Caitlin McCourt transfers to Miami High School of the Arts (MHSA), where at first fitting in with her talented new classmates is difficult. However, thanks to her mother and ex-boyfriend, Nick, her transition is even more complicated. Flinn first introduced Caitlin and Nick's physically abusive relationship in Breathing Underwater (2001), and although the couple is separated, aftershocks from this earlier text are still palpable, especially Caitlin's major confidence issues, in particular regarding her weight. Although Nick makes several appearances (despite a restraining order), Caitlin slowly and plausibly moves past this destructive relationship by focusing on her transition to MHSA, her funky new friends, who are drawn with great depth, and the discovery of her powerful voice, both on stage and off, especially when dealing with her mother. Realistic and thoughtful.
Gr 7-10: Caitlin, who was abused by her 16-year-old boyfriend, Nick, in Flinn's Breathing Underwater (HarperCollins, 2001), wants to put that relationship behind her. A talented opera singer, she gets into Miami High School for the Performing Arts despite her own nervousness and her mother's objections. Even there she feels like an outcast as she can't dance or sing pop and she obsesses about her weight. Her mother dresses like a teenager, is dating a married man, and seems to live off her ex-husband. At auditions, she meets another talented opera singer, Sean, but just as Caitlin is starting to fall for him, she realizes he's gay. While she's struggling to put all this into perspective, her singing instructor suggests that she try out for a summer opera program in New York. In the end, the teenager patches things up with her ex, who has reformed through counseling. After she gains new respect for her mother, and new confidence, she decides to pursue her dream and is accepted to the program in New York. Caitlin tells her story partly through online journal entries. Although her understanding of her mother comes too rapidly, this is a solid story, full of self-deprecating humor, snappy dialogue, and well-developed characters and situations. -- Tina Zubak, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA
Discussion Questions and Ideas:
Dating Violence - http://www.acadv.org/dating.html - Comprehensive website on dating violence, including a bill of rights, where to go for help, statistics, and stories. Dating violence crosses all racial, economic and social lines.
Researching Reality: How a Young Adult Author Researches - http://pdfs.voya.com/VO/YA2/VOYA200412AuthorTalk.pdf - An article by Flinn that appeared in the December 2004 issue of VOYA.
Teen Dating Violence - http://www.safeyouth.org/scripts/teens/dating.asp - According to recent statistics, it is extremely likely that you or someone you know have experienced violence in a dating relationship. Dating violence can take many forms, including psychological and emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. It can occur in the context of casual dating or serious long-term relationships.
Ambition in Girls
Other Books by the Author:
About the Author:
According to Flinn: "I think I write for young adults because I never quite got over being one. In my mind, I am still 13 years old, running laps on the athletic field, wearing this really baggy white gymsuit. I'm continually amazed at the idea that I have a checking account and a mortgage. So I try to write books that 'gymsuit girl' might enjoy. It's a way of going back to being thirteen ... knowing what I know now."