WHY I PICKED IT UP: The description mentions a group of young adults writing and putting on a musical by themselves, which is something I did at school last year. Will Grayson, Will Grayson aside, I feel like there aren't many books of kids writing their own musicals, and it's so relatable that I always snatch up a title when I see that's what it's about.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Cass Meyer's best friend Julia has just died in a car accident, leaving her feeling totally alone. All of her friends now seem only like Julia's friends who Cass just sort of attached to. The novel flips between Cass's lone cross-country roadtrip (with Julia's ashes) and months later when she's helping Julia's theatre clan put together a performance of "Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad," a musical Julia wrote before she died. Biking across America is hard, but facing your middle-school nemesis who has returned to star in the magnum opus of your dead best friend? That's going to push Cass to her limit.
*I'll be honest: I was totally not expecting this book to be about sexuality. Much of the story is about Cass trying to figure out if she loved Julia like a friend or if she secretly wanted to be something more. This book handles that in a tactful way.
*Cass's changing relationship with Heather, Cass's former bully, really threads the story together.
*The flipping between past and present was done tactfully, and she always revealed something that she had once alluded to.
*While the book was sweet and well-constructed, the novel did not leave a deep impression. There was nothing gut-wrenching or very surprising about it.
*A few characters (Cass, Heather, and a young woman Cass meets on her trip) were well-rounded, but the rest remained somewhat flat and forgettable, besides a few attempts at stronger characterization. This includes Julia's boyfriend, who seemed a little all over the place and popped into scenes as a force only when he needed to strike a blow.
OVERALL RATING: Recommendable for ages 13-17 because it can help support people who are struggling with sexuality or the idea of homosexual relationships. Older readers might not find the substance the desire, though.