The Life Fantastic: A Novel in Three Acts

256p. Adams Media/Merit. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781440598760.
Gr 7–10Vaudeville in the early 1900s makes for a thought-provoking setting for a tale of racial discrimination with direct parallels to today's issues. Teresa, a white girl with a golden voice, yearns to be on stage, as her parents were in their youth. Her parents, however, think otherwise. Her father declares that the theater is no place for a woman, but Teresa secretly defies him, sings in a talent competition, and runs away to New York City to pursue a performing career. Unfortunately, her younger brother, Pascal, stows away on the train, too, forcing Teresa not only to navigate the big city but also to provide for him. Another performer, Maeve, takes both siblings under her wing, as does the tap dancer Pietro. Teresa's understanding of the inequality and discrimination faced by people of color in and out of show business solidifies when her relationship with Pietro, who is black, threatens them both. The novel's sections, interspersed with passages written as lyrics and in a play-script style, don't always feel well integrated. Yes, the book is set on the vaudeville stage, but here the plot and characters are strong enough to carry that theme through without the distracting narrative devices.
VERDICT Historical fiction, racial discrimination, a budding love story, and youthful characters make this a fine additional purchase for libraries with a large historical fiction fan base.

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