TAKE A BOW
Contemporary Young Adult
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Emme, Sophie, Ethan, and Carter are seniors at a performing arts school, getting ready for their Senior Showcase recital, where the pressure is on to appeal to colleges, dance academies, and professionals in show business.
For Sophie, a singer, it's been great to be friends with Emme, who composes songs for her, and to date Carter, soap opera heartthrob who gets plenty of press coverage.
Emme and Ethan have been in a band together through all four years of school, but wonder if they could be more than just friends and bandmates.
Carter has been acting since he was a baby, and isn't sure how to admit that he'd rather paint than perform. The Senior Showcase is going to make or break each of the four, in a funny, touching, spectacular finale that only Elizabeth Eulberg could perform.
Take a Bow is a short but surprisingly emotional read, thrusting into the midst of a creative and performing arts school as four very different students try to find their way through their classes, their futures, and their individual relationships. The fact that there are four first-person point of views packed into an under three-hundred page story may cause some readers to balk initially–questioning whether or not there will be enough time to adequately connect to each character before reaching the last page–but Ms. Eulberg does an extremely impressive job of layering each character and giving them the means to pull a strong, visceral response from us however brief our sojourn into their heads and hearts. Watching as the relationships change between the four narrators as well as the side characters is entertainment at its finest, each one of them flawed and in various stages of recognizing those flaws so they may get out of their own way and grab onto the future that’s waiting just beyond their self-constructed walls.
Emme and Ethan are perhaps the two characters with whom we spend the most time, their relationship consisting of deep friendship (and unrequited love on Ethan’s part) the most emotional of the four threads woven together to create this beautiful patchwork of a story. Emme is endearingly naïve and a genuinely good person, always the first to help any of her friends should they need it, and utterly unsuspecting of any type of subterfuge or petty jealousy to the extent that we often want nothing more than to reach in and force her eyes open wide so she can see what everyone else around her already does. Her eyes do eventually open much to our immense relief, and once they’re open they remain blissfully clear and she never allows her vision to be clouded by a manipulative farce of a friend again. She goes from a meek, quiet young woman content to her place in the shadows to a strong and confident young woman who’s still plagued by nerves, but who no longer allows herself or those around her to stand in her way.
Ethan has our hearts from the opening pages, his feelings for Emme as obvious to us as Emme is oblivious, and we immediately enter into a love/hate relationship with him—loving his protectiveness of Emme while simultaneously hating that he protects her even from himself. His flaws are probably the darkest and most numerous, his self-destructive behavior a burden he bears not alone, but rather one he unintentionally shares with Emme and those who most care for him, weighing all of us down until our toes brush bottom and he begins to push off and drag us all back toward the surface. Despite his behavior, he is nothing if not worthy of redemption and affection, his clear love for Emme something painful and stunning at the same time as we honestly have no idea as to whether her feelings for him can be what he so desperately wants them to be.
Ethan and Emme are definitely the strongest of the four narrators, our time spent with Carter and Sophie not quite as complex or interesting as the maelstrom of emotions constantly swirling around the other two. Carter’s chapters are written in script-like form, something a bit jarring given the other three perspectives have no such clear distinction, and while we understand why it’s done that way given Carter’s entire life has been scripted for him, it seems just a touch out of place. Overall however, Ms. Eulberg has written a story rich with intriguing relationships where all the beauty and pain that accompanies change is laid before us in glorious detail.