Look Both Ways

Look Both Ways

by Alison Cherry

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Thoughtful, funny, and steeped in the wild drama of growing up, Alison Cherry’s new novel is the story of a girl hoping she’s found a place to belong . . . only to learn that neither talent nor love is as straightforward as she thinks.
A summer away from the city is the beginning of everything for Brooklyn Shepard. Her acting apprenticeship at the Allerdale Playhouse is a chance to prove that she can carve out a niche all her own, surrounded by people who don’t know anything about her or her family of superstar performers. 

Brooklyn immediately hits it off with her roommate, Zoe, and soon their friendship turns into something more. Brooklyn wants to see herself as someone who’s open to everything and everyone, but as her feelings for Zoe intensify, so do her doubts. As she questions her sexuality, her role as an artist, and her place in her family, Brooklyn discovers that neither talent nor love are as straightforward as she thinks.

Winner of the 2016 Bisexual Book Award for YA

An ALA Rainbow List Selection

"Enthralling . . . Brooklyn’s journey is shared, at its heart, by all young people, and her story will speak to many readers." --VOYA

"This breezy story of summer love and self-discovery has surprising depth . . . packed with humor and emotion." --Booklist

"A well-written novel that pushes the envelope but remains true to its premise." --SLJ 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553511888
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 06/14/2016
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Alison Cherry, author of Red, For Real, Look Both Ways, and The Classy Crooks Club, grew up in a suburb of Chicago and graduated from Harvard. She is a professional photographer and worked as a lighting designer for theater, dance, and opera productions for many years. During that time, she spent six months in the magical, exhausting world of summer stock theater, where everyone works 120 hours a week and survives on a mysterious elixir of caffeine, sugar, and adrenaline. Eleven years later, she’s still trying to catch up on sleep. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Follow @alison_cherry on Twitter and @alison_cherry on Instagram

Read an Excerpt




It’s weird how you can feel nostalgic for something that hasn’t actually happened yet.


My last Family Night of the summer is about to start. Our guests will arrive any second, and Dad is in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on my favorite dinner. The apartment smells like curry and chocolate and warmth, and I should be in a penny-bright mood, buoyed by the big band music on the stereo and the prospect of seeing all my favorite people. But it’s hard to focus on the sweetness of now when I’m already anticipating the bitter tang of later, when I’ll have to hug my family goodbye and try to squeeze enough love out of them to last nine weeks. Part of me wishes I could hit pause, wrap this moment around me like a quilt, and live inside it forever.


But then I’d never make it to the Allerdale Playhouse, and if I don’t go, how can I come back better?


When our buzzer rings for the first time, I dash out of my bedroom and press the intercom button that unlocks the lobby door. I’m sure it’ll be Uncle Harrison; he always arrives first, bearing a bag of weird produce from the fruit stand near his office. But when I open the door, ready to unburden myself of all my pre-nostalgic feelings, I’m surprised to see an unfamiliar girl. It’s not unusual for strangers to show up at Family Night—when you’re raised by theater people, “family” is a stretchy, nebulous word that can encompass practically anyone. But since tonight is doubling as my goodbye party, I’m not expecting someone new.


The girl’s a little older than me and almost model-beautiful, but her teeth are a tiny bit too big for her mouth, which keeps her from looking generic. Several layers of lace-edged tank tops peek out from under her filmy blue romper, and there’s an ostentatious feather clip in her hair. She’s obviously surprised to see me, too, but she rallies and holds out her hand, palm down like she thinks I might kiss it.


“Hi, I’m Skye,” she says. “Is Lana here?”


She’s projecting from her diaphragm in this way that’s totally unnecessary for a face-to-face conversation, so she must be one of my mom’s voice students. Mom takes on a new college senior almost every year, but it kind of seems like the same person over and over, bright and shellacked and trying too hard.


I try to force my face into a friendly, welcoming mask as I shake her hand. “I’m Brooklyn,” I say. “Come on in. My mom should be out in a second.”


“Lana’s your mom?” Skye’s voice goes breathy, and her eyes widen to show her entire pale gray-green irises. She’s probably the kind of person who refers to that color as “seafoam.” “Oh my God, what is that like? Is it so amazing?”


My mom’s students ask me this constantly, like I’ve had a bunch of mothers to compare and contrast. “She does a pretty good job,” I tell Skye. “I’m housebroken and everything.”


Before she can answer, my mother comes sweeping down the hall, and I step aside so she can gather her latest protégé into her arms. “Lovely Skye,” she says in her warm-honey voice. “I’m so delighted you could make it.”


“I’m delighted to be here,” Skye says from inside the voluminous folds of my mom’s dress. The word sounds wrong in her mouth, but I can see her resolving to use it more often. She pulls back and thrusts a sweating bottle of wine into my mom’s hands. “Thank you for inviting me into your home.”


“It’s a pleasure to have you. I see you’ve met my daughter?”


“Yes. It’s such an honor to meet your family.”


My mom has always told me to visualize what I want out of life so the universe will know what to give me. I take a moment to picture Skye being swept up in a Wizard of Oz–style tornado and being deposited gently in Los Angeles.


“Come in and say hello to my husband,” my mom says, and we follow her into the living room. There’s a lot to take in—the teetering piles of books stacked on the floor; the mismatched Oriental rugs; the enormous black-and-white photograph of my naked, pregnant mother. My dad’s Drama Desk Award and my mom’s Tony share mantel space with a framed cross-stitch of David Bowie’s face. Skye turns in a slow circle, her eyes huge and her mouth half-open, and then she drops her purse onto the armchair closest to the piano. It’s prime real estate; she obviously knows what happens after dinner.


The buzzer rings again, and it really is Uncle Harrison this time, wearing his standard madras shorts and button-down shirt. He hands me a bag of dragon fruits I won’t have time to eat before I leave and pulls me into his arms, squeezing so hard that my feet leave the ground. I can barely breathe, but it feels safe and familiar.


“How’s my summer-stock girl?” he asks.


“Nervous. But excited? But really nervous.”


“You’re going to blow them away, Brookie. Allerdale doesn’t take just anyone.” He says the word “Allerdale” the way everyone else does, with the same sort of reverence usually reserved for Nobel laureates and Olympic gold medalists.


“I know,” I say. I still have no idea how I managed to land a spot in such a renowned apprentice company. It’s not like my audition was bad or anything—I sang part of “Much More” from The Fantasticks and did one of Ophelia’s monologues from Hamlet, and they both went fine. None of the directors seemed very excited, though; they watched with stony, expressionless faces, and nobody even wrote anything down. When I was done, I thought for sure the artistic director, Marcus Spooner, would say something about how he’s known my mom forever, but he didn’t even bother to thank me before he told me to send in the next person. Two months later, I still have to remind myself that they wouldn’t have let me in if they hadn’t liked what they saw.


“What a wonderful opportunity for you, kiddo,” Uncle Harrison says. “Family Night won’t be the same without you, though.”


“It’s only nine weeks. You won’t even know I’m gone.” I drop my voice. “Plus, there’s someone in the living room who’s dying to take my place.”


“Oh no. Another one?”


The buzzer goes off again, and Uncle Harrison opens the door for Marisol and Christa, opera singers who used to study with my mom. Marisol is hugely pregnant, and after we kiss them hello, Christa steers her toward the couch and props her up with pillows. “She’s been on her feet all day,” she announces. “Nobody let her move again, or she’ll be up the entire night bitching about her ankles.”


Marisol swats at her. “I will not. My ankles are willowy and delicate. They are, right? I can’t actually see them.”


“Like slender little reeds,” I say, and she reaches out and affectionately pats my butt.


Skye introduces herself, her eyes pinned to Marisol’s monstrous belly like it’s a candy-filled piñata. “When are you due?” she asks.


“Not soon enough. If you can believe it, I’ve got another six weeks of this hell.”


“She’s having twins,” Christa says.


“Twins!” I swear Skye’s eyes would glow in the dark like a raccoon’s if someone switched off the lights. “Boys or girls?”


“One of each,” Christa says. “She wants to name the boy Pierre. Pierre. Please tell her he’s gonna get his ass kicked on the playground.”


“But I could dress him in tiny sailor suits!” Marisol says. “It would be adorable.”


“Your giant farm baby is not going to fit into tiny sailor suits.”


Skye’s eyes bounce back and forth between the women like she’s watching a tennis match. “Is your husband a farmer?”


Marisol laughs. “No, honey. Pierre’s daddy is a canister of sperm.”


“Strapping Ohio farm-boy sperm,” Christa adds. She sweeps her dreadlocks up into a ponytail. “I need wine. What can I get you, baby?”


“Sparkling water, please,” Marisol says.


The buzzer rings again, and when I open the door, Jermaine, Desi, and their daughters spill into the apartment in an explosion of noise. Twyla, who’s eighteen months, reaches out to me from Jermaine’s arms, and four-year-old Sutton wraps both arms around my leg. “Did you know I have two daddies at the same time?” she demands.


I stroke her shiny hair and try not to laugh at her belligerent tone. “I did know that. What are you wearing? You look so fancy.”


Sutton spins around to show off her red-and-gold satin pajamas with a dragon embroidered on the back. “It’s for Chinese New Year. Did you know I’m Chinese?”


“Yes. I remember when Daddy and Papa went to China to get you.” I turn to Desi. “Isn’t Chinese New Year in, like, January?”


He shrugs. “Whatever. It’s good to see her embracing her cultural identity.”


Jermaine kisses both my cheeks. “How are you, poodle? Ready for your big summer?”


“So ready,” I tell him. Maybe if I say it enough times, it’ll start being true.


“What’re the main stage shows this year?”


“A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Catch Me If You Can, Hedda Gabler, Dreamgirls, Bye Bye Birdie, and Macbeth.”


Desi nods. “Good season.”


“You don’t know what-all you’re in yet, right?” asks Jermaine.


“They post the cast lists after the first company meeting, so I’ll know by this time tomorrow.” I’ve spent entire nights lying awake, imagining myself effortlessly playing Rosie in Birdie or Hermia in Midsummer, but I know there’s no way that’s going to happen. “I’d really be happy with anything,” I say. “Being in rehearsals and watching those directors work is going to be amazing no matter what.”


“That’s exactly the right attitude,” Desi says. “I played Spear-Carrier Number Four in Richard III my first time there, and it was still one of the best summers of my life.”


Desi and Jermaine shout hello to my dad in the kitchen as we head inside, and Sutton marches up to Skye with her tiny fists on her hips. “Did you know I’m adopted?” she challenges.


Skye’s eyes go all soft and gooey. “Aren’t you precious,” she croons.


“I’m not precious. I’m Chinese.”


Jermaine leans over to kiss Marisol’s mouth, then her belly. “How’re you feeling, sweet girl?”


“Like a giant bacon-wrapped scallop trying to balance on a tiny, unsupportive toothpick,” she says. “Ooh, are there any bacon-wrapped scallops? I have the strongest craving all of a sudden.”


Mom comes in with overfull wineglasses for Desi and Jermaine and a half glass for me. “Where’s your girlfriend tonight, Harrison?” she asks. “What’s this one’s name? Candy? Cinnamon?”


“Her name is Cassandra, and she’s working late.”


“What does your girlfriend do?” Skye asks.


My mom snorts. “Yes, Harrison, remind us all what Cassandra does.”


“She’s a financial analyst,” he says, the way most people might say “She’s a call girl.” He takes a very large gulp of wine as my mom breaks into riotous laughter.


“Oh man, that never gets less funny. My mainstream little brother. Before we know it, you’re going to start ditching us for Monday Night Football.” She’s obviously teasing, but the word “mainstream” is a pretty serious insult around here, and my uncle flinches. This is exactly why I tried to keep my last boyfriend away from my parents; Jason loved things like laser tag and video games and the Super Bowl. He had never been inside a Broadway theater until I dragged him to see the Les Miz revival for our two-month anniversary. He fell asleep fifteen minutes in.


“I’ll make sure the next person I date is a burlesque dancer, okay, Lana?” Uncle Harrison says. “Because my love life is a hundred percent your business.”


“I’m just trying to make sure you end up with someone who suits you! Financial analysts aren’t like us.”


“Simon, how’re we doing on dinner?” Uncle Harrison shouts toward the other room.


“Almost ready,” my dad calls back. “Are we waiting on anyone?”


“No, this is it for tonight.” My mom beams at me. “A nice intimate gathering in honor of our girl.” There are eleven people in the apartment, but this is what counts as intimate for the Shepard clan.


“What are we celebrating?” Skye asks.


When Uncle Harrison explains that I’m leaving for Allerdale tomorrow, Skye looks genuinely interested in me for the first time. “Oh, that’s great, Brooklyn! I was there the last two summers. Are you in the non-equity company?”


“Maybe next year. I’m an apprentice this time.”


“Oh,” Skye says, her voice falling just short of supportive. “Well, everyone has to start somewhere, I guess.”


I’m grateful when my dad distracts everyone by carrying in giant serving platters of mango chicken and coconut rice. “Thanks for cooking,” I say to him as we get on line to serve ourselves. “It smells delicious.”


Dad wraps an arm around my shoulders, and his salt-and-pepper beard hooks on to my hair like Velcro when he kisses the side of my head. He’s wearing a frilly pink apron, and even after cooking curry all afternoon, he smells like wintergreen Life Savers. “I have to feed you while I can,” he says. “Summer-stock kids survive on ramen and ice cream.”


“Dad, I have a meal plan.”


My dad looks skeptical that anyone else can nourish me properly. He has always been a man of few words—Mom has such a big personality that he’s had to retreat a few steps into himself to make room for her—but food is how he says he loves us. Mom can barely heat up canned soup without setting something on fire, but she tells everyone she lets Dad do all the cooking because we don’t believe in heteronormative gender roles.


When everyone is settled with heaping plates balanced on their laps, my mom raises her glass. “I’d like to propose a toast to my beautiful daughter, who’s headed off on her very first summer theater adventure,” she says. “She deserves the best of the best. May Allerdale teach her as much as it taught the rest of us.” Her eyes are bright and kind and focused right on me, and it makes me feel warm all the way through. It’s not easy to impress her, and even though I know how much she loves me, times like these are few and far between.


“We’re so proud of you, Brookie,” Uncle Harrison adds, and my dad chimes in with a “Hear, hear.”


“And while she’s at Allerdale,” my mom continues, “may she meet a nice boy or girl to date. Or one of each. Or more than one of each!”


I roll my eyes. “You know I’d be totally happy with one boy.”


“You don’t know that if you haven’t tried—” she starts, but I cut her off.


“Let’s just eat, okay?”

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Look Both Ways 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Katie_breathofbooks More than 1 year ago
This book was a fun and light summer read that also dealt with some deeper issues. I loved the setting of the theater program. And I loved watching the relationship between Brooklyn and her roommate Zoe develop. Something I haven't really seen before in books is a character questioning her sexuality and realizing that she is probably actually straight. Usually, when a character in a book is questioning they end up being somewhere on the QUILTBAG spectrum by the end. So it was refreshing to see this instead.
MissHammond More than 1 year ago
A witty, humorous, and poignant book for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Nina LaCour. Alison Cherry's books always sparkle with wit and humor; Look Both Ways is no exception. It's also her most poignant book yet. In Look Both Ways, protagonist Brooklyn is struggling to figure out who she is, what her talent is--or if she even has talent, period--and how she feels about Zoe, her force-of-nature roommate at summer theater camp. Cherry deftly explores that gray area between strong platonic female friendships and romantic obsession, and she also addresses complicated familial relationships: Did Brooklyn's family heap these overwhelming expectations on her shoulders? Or did she also kind of do it to herself? I adored watching Brooklyn become more comfortable in her own skin over the course of the book. Maybe she isn't going to be the person her family or she herself thought she would be--but she learns to accept that, and even embrace it. I want to press this book into the hands of every young person trying to figure out what makes them tick, especially theater-lovers! This is the kind of book that will make you smile, sigh, and swoon--and ultimately lift your spirits.