I was feeling a tad on the blue side this weekend, and so I turned to some comfort reading in the form of smart but gentle YA with lots of drama (drama as in theatre, not drama as in The Hills-esque shenanigans).
Molly’s Cue is an uplifting story about living through disappointment and learning to find the silver lining in life. When Molly Gumley enters grade nine, she feels certain that she is on her way to becoming a bonafide actress. Molly shares her passion for acting with her recently deceased and dearly beloved Grand, who first instilled Molly with a love of all things theatrical. But it turns out Grand wasn’t who she pretended to be, and landing that major role isn’t as simple as Molly had hoped. In fact, nothing in Molly’s life seems to be going as planned. I hear ya, Molly.
All of my favourite YA ingredients are here, including authentic dialogue, life lessons without a hint of after-school special schmaltz, the quirky best friend, the potential love interest, and the odd-ball uncle. The book is divided into short chapters and moves along at a smooth, easy reading pace. In addition to it’s intended YA audience, this is a great book for tweens who read up. Being something of a semi-retired theatre rat, I was especially conscious and appreciative of the way Alison Acheson captured the feeling of being on stage, of losing yourself in a role, and the ups and downs that come with being a drama kid.
One of my favourite aspects of Alison’s writing, present in this book and also in her CLA short-listed Mud Girl, are her sophisticated inter-generational relationships. Her teen protagonists are surrounded by interesting, flawed, and well-rounded adult characters. In some kids books, it is necessary to eliminate parents or other adult authority figures so that kids are able to go on adventures that would otherwise be impossible. Hence the numerous orphan stories that abound in children’s literature. Now I love me a good orphan or adventure story, but I do believe it is often too simple or convenient to just off any adults or make them obsolete by writing them as one-dimensional villains. Alison never resorts to such trickery, which is perhaps why I find her books so authentic and satisfying.
Having been fortunate enough to have taken Alison’s creative writing for children course two years in a row during my MA at UBC, I know firsthand the kind of thought, care, and craft that goes into her work. I am not in the least surprised at how much I enjoyed Molly’s Cue. It is a quiet gem of a novel.
Molly’s Cue is available now from Coteau Books.