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"[D]elivers a simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking look at the dual toll grief and mental illness take on teenagers. The resulting denouement is chaotic and heart-wrenching." - Publisher's Weekly
Stocky stoner prankster Frenchy and his wealthy hippie friend Stewart usually prefer to bide their time smoking weed and plotting tricks to unleash on their unsuspecting school, but when Stewart hears that the drama department is putting on The Man of La Mancha, he eagerly convinces Frenchy to audition with him.
Stewart and Frenchy land the lead roles of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, respectively, and all hell breaks loose as Frenchy and the cast watch Stewart's mind disintegrate into dementia in rehearsals as opening night approaches. Stahler knows high-school boyspeak well, and both characters walk and talk like real teen boys who've known each other forever. He successfully renders other characters as well, including a stage-manager love interest for Frenchy. He stumbles with plot, however. While the parallels between the boys' lives and the musical are obvious, the allusions will feel bizarre and random to teen readers not familiar with either the play or the Cervantes original, especially when Stewart shows up to class in full costume and makeup with a saber.
The end may or may not be a surprise to readers, but ultimately this story of a high-school friend trying to save his buddy will be tough to find an audience for. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Frenchy's had a hell of a year, and now he just wants to coast through his senior year. But Stewart wants to get involved and, as his best friend, Frenchy backs him up. Their relationship, mirrored in the master-servant/leader-follower relationship of Sancho and the Don, is the driving force of this book. And it's a serious and challenging relationship. Still, Spinning Out is mostly hilarious. It's not laugh-out-loud funny; it's more subtle than that. If this book were literary fiction instead of YA, it would be called "intelligent humor." The banter between Frenchy and Stewart is always snarky, and when you throw Ralph, their pot dealer/Frenchy's mom's boyfriend, into the mix, it's gets a little out of control. In a good way. That's why, when Stewart starts to act a bit...off, Frenchy doesn't think too much of it.
Stewart falls further and further into the role of Don Quixote; it's great for the play, but hard on Frenchy. It's also hard on his budding relationship with stage manager Kaela (who is awesome-sauce). So he steps away, just a little bit. Finally able to claim a little bit of his own limelight in the role of Sancho, Frenchy separates himself just the tiniest bit from Stewart. They're still best friends (and Frenchy is a Great Friend), they're just no longer practically surgically attached.
During all of this changing and growing and relationship stuff, there is still a show to put on! Long rehearsals, music practices, hot chicks with power tools building sets, it's all there. Theater geeks and show choir enthusiasts (and fans of books like My Invented Life) will love this aspect. All readers will be treated to a meaty story in the meantime.
Book source: ARC provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.