Monday, June 6, 2016

Spring Reading 2016 Dara Palmer's Major Drama


Since practice for school plays is often held in the library, I have seen my share of future actors. And let's face it, fifth grade is full of melodrama (gearing up for the soap opera years of middle school). But I don't think I have ever had a student as completely involved in drama as Dara Palmer. For instance, none of the kids at school seem to spend their time writing movie scenes in their heads. Dara does. She frequently tunes out of class or family dinners and imagines she is sharing a scene with her favorite actor, Bradley Porter, whom she plans to marry one day. And while I have seen students singing favorite songs or acting out a quick scene from a hit movie, they don't spend their entire recess practicing making faces. Dara and her friend Lacey have claimed a bench on the playground and spend every recess working on faces to express each emotion they might need to portray when they become megastars.

Dara certainly stands out, even at home. Her parents and older brother are British, her younger sister was adopted from an orphanage in Russia, and Dara was adopted from an orphanage in Cambodia. So she doesn't look like the rest of her family. There is also her fashion sense. She would much rather wear a tutu than boring trousers (thankfully she has to wear a uniform to school or there is no telling what sort of ensemble she might put together). Besides wearing lots of sparkly clothes when she gets the chance, Dara also sings, dances, and basically performs her way through life. It doesn't seem to slow her down when her family asks her to sing at the far end of the yard. She truly feels that she is a dramatic genius and is destined for fame and fortune as an actress. That's why it is such a shock when she doesn't get the coveted part in the school play. She tells the drama teacher, "You're cutting off my blood supply and denying me the right to live!"

There is plenty of other drama going on in her life. Her friend Vanna is returning to the orphanage they both came from in Cambodia to explore her roots. Her sister Georgia is in training for a fundraising run and Dara complains when she is made to go to the park with her mother and sister. One of the boys at school calls her "noodle head" all the time and even throws noodles in her hair during lunch. Her BFFAE (best friend forever and ever) Lacey scores a small part in the school play and there is growing tension between the two girls. Her brother Felix is studying for his exams and will be going off to college in the fall. Why does life have to be so hard?

Although the story is very entertaining and has plenty of moments to make you laugh and smile, there are also serious moments. The whole concept of adoption and having a different cultural background than the rest of your family is tough. Having students at school who call you names because of your ethnicity is horrible. Trying to learn how to put yourself in other people's shoes and empathize is hard to do (especially when you are a megastar in your own mind). And the topic of how it feels never to see characters in movies or TV shows that look like you is very current and a concern that many people share.

Readers will laugh at Dara's antics, sympathize with her disappointment, and watch to see where her journey of self-discovery takes her. They may also clamor for a sequel starring their favorite megastar.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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