My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies

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My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this lively romantic dramedy, Zadoff (Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have) uses a high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream as a backdrop for one teenager's coming-of-age. Ever since his father's death, sophomore Adam Ziegler has sought refuge in his school's theater department. As a techie, responsible for set construction and lights, Adam is part of a small but tight-knit group, forbidden by unwritten custom from interacting with the actors, "unless it's absolutely necessary." Then he meets Summer Armstrong, an actress willing to defy the rules, and an unlikely friendship slowly develops into something deeper. But in true Shakespearean fashion, Adam may have to choose between friends and romance. As the production descends into chaos, courtesy of a tyrannical student designer and a director in the throes of a midlife crisis, Adam struggles to keep it all together. Zadoff captures the confusion, torn loyalties, and overwrought drama of teenage life—not to mention student theater. All the world's a stage, indeed, and these players earn their applause. Ages 12–up. (May)
Kirkus Reviews

Drama begets drama in this examination of relationships set against the backdrop of a high-school theater production. When his father died after a late-night car crash, Adam Ziegler withdrew from his friends and started fearing total darkness. His life is all about the catwalks in the school theater, setting up the lights for the current production, hiding from the domineering director and avoiding the actors that control the school's social structure. However, he finds that he can't resist Summer, a new actress who takes the lead after a sudden accident eliminates the former star. As he and Summer begin flirting, Adam finds himself at odds with the stage crew's unwritten rule that keeps actors and technicians apart—and under suspicion when other problems befall the production. Zadoff frames Adam and Summer's relationship roughly on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a rather effective vehicle for the romance. Overall characterization is a bit weak, with director Mr. Apple's over-the-top moments grating the most, followed closely by prima donna actor Derek's smarmy behavior. Adam's attempt to hide from his friends inadvertently locks his personality away from the readers as well, though flashes of both humor and sadness leak through his shell. Though not a Broadway sensation, this mostly solid tale ultimately appeals. (Fiction. YA)

School Library Journal
Gr 7–9—Being alone on the catwalk of his high school theater suits Adam Ziegler very well. Since his father's untimely death two years earlier, he wants to avoid all social contact. However, during production week of A Midsummer Night's Dream, he encounters Summer, a lovely young actress who, despite the unwritten rule that techies and actors don't mix, seems to be interested in Z—zits and all. Derek, the arrogant student production designer, does his best to thwart his efforts, but when Z manages to save the show, he finds the courage to overcome his fears and step out of the shadows, both literally and figuratively. Fast-paced and filled with humor, Zadoff's latest title is sure to appeal to fans of Glee and other performance-based TV shows. However, while the beginning of the novel introduces some interesting characters, including a maligned girl-techie and an over-the-top gay director, Mr. Apple, the story quickly descends into melodrama: Mr. Apple has a career crisis and walks out; incompetent Derek has a meltdown when the lights all blow, and fast-thinking Adam manages to save the day. And of course, "all's well that ends well." While the language is far less raw than that in David Stahler, Jr.'s Spinning Out (Chronicle, 2011), another novel that revolves around a high school theater scene, it is also less thought-provoking, and many of the characters, especially the adults (except for Z's mother), are stereotypes. The short chapters will appeal to reluctant readers, but the story is basically fluff and not worth the price of admission.—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, The Naples Players, FL
School Library Journal
Gr 7–9—Being alone on the catwalk of his high school theater suits Adam Ziegler very well. Since his father's untimely death two years earlier, he wants to avoid all social contact. However, during production week of A Midsummer Night's Dream, he encounters Summer, a lovely young actress who, despite the unwritten rule that techies and actors don't mix, seems to be interested in Z—zits and all. Derek, the arrogant student production designer, does his best to thwart his efforts, but when Z manages to save the show, he finds the courage to overcome his fears and step out of the shadows, both literally and figuratively. Fast-paced and filled with humor, Zadoff's latest title is sure to appeal to fans of Glee and other performance-based TV shows. However, while the beginning of the novel introduces some interesting characters, including a maligned girl-techie and an over-the-top gay director, Mr. Apple, the story quickly descends into melodrama: Mr. Apple has a career crisis and walks out; incompetent Derek has a meltdown when the lights all blow, and fast-thinking Adam manages to save the day. And of course, "all's well that ends well." While the language is far less raw than that in David Stahler, Jr.'s Spinning Out (Chronicle, 2011), another novel that revolves around a high school theater scene, it is also less thought-provoking, and many of the characters, especially the adults (except for Z's mother), are stereotypes. The short chapters will appeal to reluctant readers, but the story is basically fluff and not worth the price of admission.—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, The Naples Players, FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781606840368
  • Publisher: EgmontUSA
  • Publication date: 5/10/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 704,480
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Sweet and Funny Read

    Sweet, funny, and heartfelt, Allen Zandoff's My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies truly captures the voice of teen in nearly every way possible.

    Ever since the death of his beloved dad, Adam Ziegler has made it a point to fall into the background. From his friendships, to his after school actives, to school in general, Adam never lets himself truly get involved or attached. However, everything changes with his high school's production of A Midsummer's Dream, because after meeting a cheerful and mysterious new actress, one who may just be interested with him, he suddenly wants to be in the spotlight- for better or for worse. Though what happens when you throw in a crabby student, a tainted production, one teeny tiny rule, and one huge director? Will everything come out okay, or will Adam once again retreat out of his life? Only time and more pages can tell in Allen Zandoff's memorable sophomore novel.

    I always love when a YA book is not only told from a boy's perspective, but also in a realistic tone. Thankfully, Allen was able to give readers both with Adam's character. Awkward yet likable and sweet, Adam stole my heart from the first page to the very last. His feelings over his dad's death were very realistic, and they constantly made me want to reach out and give him a big hug. Furthermore, I also enjoyed seeing him build up relationships with new friends as well as one certain girl, because it allowed him to grow as a character in many fantastic ways. Other characters that always managed to steal the spotlight were Adam's fellow techies and actors/actresses. Sure, some of them were shallow and narrow-minded, but they still brought lots of drama and laughs to the table.

    Another memorable aspect of this book was the premise. Books dealing with play productions always interest me, and this one was no different. I especially enjoyed being able to go behind the scenes so to say and see all the work and dedication that goes into making a show spectacular. Moreover, with the quick chapters in which this was told, it was easy to get lost in the world of costumes, lighting, and fairies for a few short hours.

    The only aspect of this novel I was not particularly pleased with was the lack of development in certain characters, because I felt it would have been even better if more details were included.

    However, Allen Zandoff still provides a great retreat within the pages of My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies- one that will be sure to leave readers craving for more memorable boy protagonists.

    Grade: B

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2012

    I really liked it

    Nicendinge

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  • Posted May 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Techies do it better in the dark

    My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies is an awfully long title, but the story itself is freakin' sweet with a dash of boyish charm and theatrical pizazz. Yes, you heard me right: freakin' sweet. I may be a bit biased because I have a secret penchant for behind-the-scenes theater (e.g. I get overly excited for set changes - SO cool!), and Adam Ziegler and peeps were the coolest of the cool.

    Adam was such a fascinating narrator that told the facts as they were and added no fluffery, but he delivered the story in such a droll way that made me chuckle. He reminded me a little of Vera Dietz - unsure of how to move on after death of a loved one, but gamely trying to get on with their lives. Going through the motions, really, until they reach a point where life suddenly starts to make sense again. For Adam, it begins with a girl named Summer who challenges the "actors and techies don't mix" rule and ends with his rescue of the play production from the arrogant, overly ambitious student director.

    What really sold me to My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies was Adam's genius rescue of the play production. I could really picture the lights and how the play unfolded - and it sounded AMAZING! I seriously envied the audience who got to witness this production of A Midsummer's Night Dream! If you love creative theatrical productions, I can imagine that you may just go over the moon with this portion of the story - which happens at the end, by the way.

    My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies is wonderful and brilliant. The cast of characters were down-to-earth and realistic that I can picture them in any high school. It was strange to not have to deal with popularity politics or even heavy romantic tension whatsoever, and instead enjoy the pains and pleasures of simply being teenagers who share a love for theater. Adam Ziegler, you totally rock! And you too, Allen Zadoff! ;)

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  • Posted May 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Imaginations Book Review of My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies

    Every now and then a novel comes along that encompasses everything you are looking for in a book, right at that very moment. The words capture your mind, and the characters capture your heart. The style of writing is so unique that you are mesmerized, you want to savor every word and take your time, yet you can't put it down. That was this book for me. A tall order to fill, I know, yet it did all that and more. Maybe it's because I was a drama club kid in high school. Maybe it's because I was an actress with a crush on a techie. The guy that did lights actually. Maybe it was just that time in my life when everything fit so perfectly together, I was carefree and had no worries. I loved being on the stage and performing in talent shows and plays and having this amazing camaraderie with all the actors and stagehands. Maybe it took me back to my childhood. Yeah, I think that's it. Anyway, back to reality. If you can't tell already, I absolutely adored this book. It wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be, but that's okay. It may have even been better. I loved the protagonist, so much. Adam was exactly the kind of guy I would've had a crush on in high school. Yeah, he had acne. So what? His personality made him adorable. Flawed. Strong but weak, someone who was mysterious and you would definitely want to get to know better. I got him. Totally. And then there were all the other characters. Wow. I have never read a book that felt like everyone I was reading about were actually real people. Like they were existing somewhere at this very moment. Not characters, real life individuals. I don't need or want to talk about story elements in this review. I think that would ruin everything I'm saying. It's not necessary. Trust me..it's all there. Yes this is a book about real life. There is nothing paranormal here. No fantasy, no fairies or vampires. And God was it ever refreshing. It's funny, a little sad, quirky, etc. It has the ability to put a smile on your face when your head feels like exploding (I had a migraine toward the end of this). I could gush and gush and tell you how much you need to read this book, but I'm not going to. All I will say is this. If you ever felt insecure in high school(everyone) or wished you were a little more brave in real life(everyone), then you should read this book. It has my full seal of approval. I only wish I had it to own in hardback instead of a kindle copy. I want this for my collection? Anyone have one they want to trade?

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  • Posted March 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Story

    The voice in the blurb for the book caught my attention for this one as well. This story is about Adam Ziegler who is still dealing with his father's death. He does so by becoming a "techie" for the school's drama department. But this year's production is going to be a lot harder. Derek, the villain of the story, updated A Midsummer Night's Dream script, is in charge of the actors, the set, and is basically running the show. This is a classic case of someone who has more cash than ability.

    Adam knows what he's doing, and wants more than anything to run the spotlight. He prefers to keep his head down, even though several of Derek's lighting designs have flaws. That is, until he catches sight of a new student named Summer and loses his heart to her. And his mind, because the one unspoken rule of the drama department is that actors and techies don't mix. Ever. In this way, it reminded me a little of a modern day Romeo and Juliet only without all the poison and death.

    MY LIFE is also a coming of age story. I really loved how, after his father's death, Adam put a crucial part of himself that he'd shared with his dad into a box and sealed it with tape. But even though he'd locked that part of him in the closet, his artistic abilities still came out. But rather than using paints, he used light. This was especially beautiful in one of the scenes near the end when Derek's need for more special effects and lights ended up blowing the power in the entire building, but Adam managed to keep the show going anyway.

    And that's where the story really hit me. The Adam that creates art from light and saves the show is a very different Adam from the beginning. Or maybe it's just that now he's come to himself. He's able to set his fears and insecurities aside and find himself again. I think his fear of the dark was very well woven in throughout the story and had a very real part in the whole tragedy surrounding his father's death. The death was also done well. Enough clues were dropped that even though Adam didn't come out and say how it had all happened until near the end of the book, I, as a reader, had enough faith in the author that not knowing upfront didn't bother me.

    The thing that gave me a pause was the classic teenage boy humor. Nothing happens, but some of the references and jokes made me a little uncomfortable because I'm an easy blusher. There was also some mild swearing. Out of five stars, I give this a solid 3.87.

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