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  • Posted June 20, 2011

    A Wonderful Book for any age -

    When two musically gifted girls are pitted and compared to each other as kids, they might have a nasty, threatening rivalry in high school. Neither Brooke, Katherine, nor their Eco-chosen friends follow how deeply seated the complications really are. Author Sara Bennett Wealer knows music, young people and even digs their parental generation values in this "teen" novel written for anyone who's ever experienced talent, friendship and/or rejection. "Obstinato: stubborn - a musical phrase that repeats over and over." Wealer's break-headings, appearing throughout, add much to the strain of relationships. Betty N. Buckman

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2011

    For every teenage girl and every woman who has ever been one!

    One of my favorite things about reading YA Contemporary novels is that they transport me right back to the hallways of my high school. Some authors nail the entire experience so well it is like I am reading pages out of my journal, and not merely some abstract creation from someone else's mind. The characters are believable, their interactions and emotions realistic (both good and bad), and the relationships are pitch perfect.

    And Sara Bennett Wealer's debut RIVAL might just be the best I've come across yet.

    I read a review that said this book tackles topics never done before in YA. I'm not sure if that is totally true-while the choir angle is definitely not overdone, I have seen other stories involving similar worlds, and there is no shortage of books dealing with friendships gone horribly wrong-BUT I do believe I've never seen these topics handled so authentically before in YA.

    The friendship and fallout between Kathryn and Brooke is the central conflict of this story. The misunderstandings, jealousy, backstabbing, plotting, laughter, social hierarchy, confusion, crushes, heartbreak, silliness, and waffling portrayed between the two is a guaranteed time warp for any reader. Sara sucks you in one page one and never lets you go as you flip flop between the two POV's and piece the clues together to find out what turned these one time best friends into mortal enemies.

    The backdrop of the singing competition is perfect. The secondary characters are fun. Brooke's scheming BFF Chloe reminds me exactly of a girl I went to school with and the adorable boys in this book are sigh worthy. I love the parent relationships in this book and Brooke's older brothers. And in the end, both girls get what they need.

    I highly recommend RIVAL for every teenage girl and every woman who has ever been one. I can't wait to see what Sara Bennett Wealer has up her sleeves next!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    Cute book

    This was a cute story. You absolutely must read the chapter titles otherwise this story doesnt make sense. Trust me. I wasnt at all surprised with the ending it was a bit predictable. It is a good story to read on the beah. Or a quick read.

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  • Posted September 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Review from Blkosiner's Book Blog

    There are two sides to every story and boy does this book prove it. I was all geared up to completely side with Kathryn because she sounds more like me--shy and not part of a-list crowd, but as the story progressed I felt more and more for Brooke too and her story and voice was able to shine. I feel like I am more able to understand some of the workings of popular crowd and that it's not as shiny as it may seem from the outside.
    I also found it enlightening being in both character's heads-what they saw as weaknesses or flaws were admired or never an issue for the other.
    Though music is a big part of the story and the character's lives, I feel like everything was realistic and the details, even if unfamiliar, never distracted me or turned me off for the plot or character, instead it made me have a deeper appreciation.
    This is a beautifully written contemporary with gripping star characters as well as developed secondary. I highly recommend.

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  • Posted July 21, 2011

    Review: Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer

    As a singer myself, I've wanted to read this book since I first heard about it. Even without the description, the cover alone would have drawn me to this book. Having witnessed firsthand how deeply rivalries can run between singers at the college level, I was very curious to see how this drama would play out in a high school chorus setting.

    Kathryn has become a social outcast thanks to Brooke. Since Brooke punched her junior year, tensions have been high, and this is not helped by the fact that they have to see each other in choir every day. This rivalry only escalates as the Blackmore competition approaches; jealously and fear of secrets coming to light seem to be a constant state of being for both girls. But in the midst of this, they both cannot help but remember their junior year and the evens that led them to dislike each other so strongly. In fact, Rival alternates between both girls' points of view, as well as between memories and the present day, which really show this contrast and brings the reader deeper into the world of both girls.

    I loved getting to know Kathryn and Brooke, and I could sympathize with both of them. Kathryn longs for the things that she has never had - popularity, money, the chance to really be seen - and Brooke is caught between what she wants and what everyone expects of her. I would say that these two aren't your typical high school girls, but they are; however, they are not the stereotypical girls found in so many stories. Instead, they both have their moments of goodness and their moments of poor decisions. Sometimes I was frustrated with them, but everything seemed so familiar from my own days in choir that I felt that I was attending school right along with Kathryn and Brooke.

    I also enjoyed the scenes in which Kathryn and Brooke discussed music and opera. However, these conversations were not so predominant that someone who is not a singer couldn't follow them. The Blackmore competition may have been the driving force behind many of the events and the reminiscing, but it was not always the focus. However, the competition is part of the story, and while I was slightly surprised by the competition results and the ending of the book, I felt that it was both realistic and the way things should have been.

    In Rival, Sarah Bennett Wealer has spun a story that is so realistic and engaging that you can't help but be drawn into it. Despite the frustrations, I had to know if Kathryn and Brooke would be okay after all was said and done. I will look forward to reading what Wealer writes next!

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  • Posted February 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    High School Rivalry Meets Its Match!

    High school is where memories are made, be they good or bad. Whether you're popular or an outcast, you remember that time of your life. Sara Bennett Wealer's debut novel, Rival, recaptures high school through the eyes of two girls who couldn't be more different...or more alike. Kathryn and Brooke are two seniors competing for the same prestigious music scholarship. Kathryn is a soprano with a light, airy voice, while Brooke is an alto, her sound rich and deep. Brooke is rich and one of the most popular girls at school while Kathryn is poor and a social outcast. Their love of music should bring these two girls together in the ultimate friendship, but instead, they're bitter rivals.

    The novel flips between "current day" (senior year) and flashbacks of junior year when everything went wrong. This isn't done in an annoying way, however. Each year is focused on from both points of view for quite a few chapters before flipping back again. Rival is so tightly written that readers want to know what happened junior year to make Kathryn and Brooke such bitter rivals. They keep alluding to something, so by the time you find out, you're just dying to know. Wealer did a spectacular job building suspense and keeping the story feeling natural.

    Rivals focuses on relationships, but not the romantic kind. While there's a brush of romance thrown in, it's very blink-and-you-miss-it. While boy drama is involved, the male species is not the focal point of this novel: The relationship between the two rivals is. It's refreshing to read a book with this type of outlook. There's so much more to life than boys, but you'd never know it perusing today's YA market. Friendship and rivalry is very much a part of our daily life, especially in high school. At one point, Kathryn and Brooke were on the point of being friends. If what went down junior year hadn't gotten in the way, they would have most likely been best friends. They're so obsessed with music and have so much in common, but it's all overlooked due to their intense dislike of one another.

    The relationship between the girls is another place where Wealer got it right. Because she chose to write from the POV of both characters, readers get a multi-faceted look at them as human beings. If we had read the book from just one perspective, we'd be looking through the flawed eyes of that one character. The remaining girl would automatically be a villain. It's amazing to see the same situation through two pairs of eyes. For example, at one point, Kathryn gets complimented on her singing and smiles at one of her choir friends, but Brooke thinks she's being smug and going, "So there!" at her to rub it in. In another instance, Kathryn thinks Brooke's homecoming platform revolves around her and the fact that her family is poor, but Kathryn's circumstances never crossed Brooke's mind when putting everything together. It's just amazing to see the way both girls become flawed, individual characters, neither right nor wrong. There are times when I really detest Brooke's character, but others when Kathryn is out of line as well. Ultimately, I cared for them both and wanted to know how everything ultimately turns out for them.

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  • Posted February 14, 2011

    Girl fight!

    RIVAL, by Sara Bennett Wealer, is a realistic battle between two girls from different social spectrums. Their common love for singing bring them together junior year to become best friends. But peer pressure and jealousy weave into this friendship that ends in a black eye and a tarnished reputation. This is the story of senior year and a competition that these girls would do anything to win.

    Wealer went all out girl-fight in this book. Misunderstandings and social pressure forced the destruction of the friendship between Brooke and Kathryn. Wealer set up the tall and popular Brooke against the petite and shy Kathryn. Can you guess who came out on top of the social pyramid?

    Brooke was the typical Queen Bee of this high school. Her attitude and influence on the student body kept her reputation successful. One difference from other sterotypes was the fact she was in choir. Her dream was to become a famous singer and she would stop at nothing to get there. For as much as Brooke ruined Kathryn's life at school, I liked getting into her head and understanding her motivations and thoughts.

    Kathryn's connection with Brooke was initally strong because of their love of singing and soon extended to other parts of their lives. These girls were two peas in a pod. I felt terrible after Kathryn was outcast but the reasons were equally both girls faults. Social pressure in high school can make people do crazy things to stay afloat and Wealer made a good point of showing that.

    I liked the structure of the book in how Wealer flashed between junior and senior year. It kept me reading so that I could understand the rift between these once-best friends. I also liked the singing definitions that signaled different sections of the book and what was to come. Overall, a great YA contemporary book. Those who have a fondness for the arts would especially like it.

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  • Posted February 3, 2011

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    Great book!

    This is one heck of a book. From the start, the book, it played on like beautiful music to my ears never letting go. It flowed on and on playing me like a guitar. Brooke and Katheryn were best friends then rivals though a misunderstanding. Will both girls learn to forgive? Or will the music that they play forever ring in their ears.

    I loved the writing and the plot of this story. Ms. Wealer not only introduce us to music but she intertwine it with her writing. With each turn of the page, her writing played with the progression of music. She gave us words of music before divulging us on the story. If she said crescendo then the plot went faster and faster.

    I don't like it much when the story switches from pov to pov. Ms. Wealer did a fantastic job writing both sides without making it confusing or losing any detail. Each side of the story was captured well enough just leaving a few pieces out, enough for the reader to piece together what really happen. It is excellent.

    The love for music for both girls was also captured passionately. You saw both of them work hard and struggle for what they wanted. In the end they learned to see whats important. The love interest is adoring. I really wasn't expecting much with so much already going on but with the way Ms.Wealer wrote it, it flowed beautifully with everything else.

    If you like music, love, and friendship read this book. I can honestly say the way the book flowed was perfect. The plot, drama, and love is all written well.

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  • Posted January 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Classic High school Rivalry

    Kathryn and Brooke are fierce rivals in their senior year of high school. They both sing in choir and are shoe-ins to win the prestigious Blackmore Young Artsists award. Oh yeah, and they hate each other. But it wasn't always like this. During their junior year, they had been inseparable at times. Then something terrible happened and the hatred has been thick ever since. As the stress of the upcoming contest gets heavier, both girls begin to re-evaluate what is truly important to them.

    Two books in a row with piano covers! Perhaps this is my subconscious telling me to start playing the piano again. Hmmm.

    This was a sweet little book about two rivaling high school girls. Sara Bennett Wealer clearly makes one girl out to be better than the other, in everything from singing to being a good person. Yet both stories (the chapters alternate between Kathryn and Brooke) are equally compelling. There is a little bit of everything for the reader to identify with. The popular crowd, the choir geeks, the hottest guy in school, the cool best friend that's been there forever. Kathryn and Brooke are well developed characters, as are Kathryn's best friend Matt and Brooke's best friend Chloe. I always like seeing clever secondary characters, because it ends up rounding out the story a lot more than if the only finished characters are the main ones. And with an ending that I don't think any reader will see coming, Rival is a perfect mix of melody and harmony.

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    Posted July 23, 2011

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    Posted May 27, 2011

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