Book Review: Shannon in the Spotlight by Kalena Miller
After Shannon accidentally lands a lead role in the summer musical, she realizes she has bigger things to worry about than stage fright in this contemporary middle-school novel about strained friendships, the positive power of theater, and the realities of being a tween with OCD.
Shannon Carter never considered herself much of a theater person. Not like her two BFFs, Elise, an actress, and Fatima, a techie. Shannon’s always been content to stay backstage, helping wherever she can. But when the director of the summer musical hears Shannon singing, he encourages her to step out of the wings and into the spotlight.
At first, Shannon is hesitant. As a twelve-year-old with obsessive-compulsive disorder, she depends on routine. But when she braves the audition, she discovers that center stage is the one place where she doesn’t feel anxious. She lands a lead role, and everyone in her life is ecstatic . . . except Elise.
To make matters worse, Shannon’s eccentric and opinionated grandmother moves in with her and her mom after a fluke house fire. As opening night approaches, Shannon feels pressure to save her friendship with Elise, to make Mom and Grandma Ruby act like grown-ups, and to follow the old theater adage The show must go on.
Thank goodness for there now being SO MANY wonderful books that address mental health issues. Here we meet Shannon, who has OCD, but—of course—she also has a lot of other things happening in her life. OCD is just a piece of it, and it’s a piece of it she’s learning to live with and cope with. She’s in therapy and works hard to talk about how she feels, what her triggers are, and what she can do to get through her worst moments. Her friends and family all know about it, and sure, they don’t always say or do the right thing, but everyone is trying to be helpful, compassionate, and understanding.
In addition to working on/through her OCD, Shannon is also dealing with all the typical issues that come with middle school. She’s always been tight with her two best friends Fatima and Elise, but Elise, who has high hopes for her role in the summer musical, begins to act distant when Shannon, to everyone’s surprise, is cast in the play in the role Elise hoped for. And those two get so caught up in being hurt and angry that they overlook something important to Fatima. Then there’s Micah, the new boy that Shannon begins to hang out with. Navigating that first real crush is no small thing! And Shannon is also dealing with the unexpected long-term visit from her abrasive grandmother. For someone who really likes things just so, having a roommate who doesn’t necessarily understand Shannon’s OCD is rough.
But. Everything works out okay. Apologies are made, new understandings are experienced, progress happens, and all the many little frustrations and slights and fears that make up daily life are worked through. And most importantly, we as readers get to see Shannon constantly working to handle her OCD. We get that message that it IS something that can be handled, helped, and talked about openly. Middle school isn’t an easy time, but thanks to lots of good help and good friends, Shannon is going to be okay. A great read about what it’s like to live with a mental illness and what it’s like to just be your average middle schooler getting through daily life—the ups, the downs, and the unexpected new parts of life that come with growing up, finding your interests, and learning how to care for and advocate for yourself.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 04/25/2023
Age Range: 10 – 12 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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