Recommended for ages 9-14
Twelve year-old Beth wants nothing more than to be an actress. She participates in her local children’s theatre productions and gets great reactions, but her parents think this is just “kid stuff” and push her toward being a lawyer, just like her dad. When the announcement that the children’s theatre is going to close, though, Beth and her best friend, Zandy, are crushed. The theatre director announces that the last play the company will put on will be the first play that opened the theatre 50 years ago – Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – and Beth is beside herself. She’s desperately wanted to play Juliet, but she’s grounded and can’t even audition. How is she going to be part of this production? Even more important, how can she make her parents understand that acting, not law, is her true passion?
Playing Juliet is loaded with theatre fan terms and inside secrets. Every chapter begins with a quote from Shakespeare, and the text itself is full of superstition (did you know that wearing real jewels or the color blue can be considered bad luck?) and behind-the-scenes action. Beth is a likable heroine with a likable best friend and strong support group around her. She’s also got the relatable frustration of having her parents choose her career path for her (my dad always told me I was going to be a doctor), and the dual dread of disappointing them or having them trivialize her desire to be an actress. Her parents aren’t the bad guys here, either – they just want what’s best for their daughter, and are supportive of her in every other way, including fair discipline, as you’ll see in the story.
Tweens – particularly girls – are going to enjoy this book for the strong female characters and the bravery they display in fighting for what they believe in. It’s a solid story about friendship, family, taking chances, and pursuing your goals. Author’s notes about the theatre and quotes from Shakespeare round out this novel. Pair this with Raina Telgemeier’s Drama for middle schoolers!