Natalie Beacon is thirteen and was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident when she was two. She’s loved musical theater ever since her best friend’s mom took them to see a production of Annie. She dreams of being on Broadway, but would anyone ever cast a girl in a wheelchair? After moving to small town New Jersey she see’s a flyer for a Summer production of one of her favorite musicals, Wicked, for kids ages 10-13. Nat is determined to try out and is ecstatic when she’s cast in the ensemble. But when one thing after another effects the production, will Nat get her chance to fly?
This book was cute, and fun, and such a great affirmation that you can do anything. Nat is desperate to be treated like any other kid her age instead of adults seeing her chair. While I can’t relate to that personally, I’ve known enough kids in wheelchairs to know that this is common. If they need help, they’ll ask for it, otherwise stand back and let them do their thing. Nat’s parents are afraid she’ll be rejected by the theater for being disabled, which is an understandable fear to have for your kid. No one wants their kid be hurt by rejection, especially when they are par of a marginalized group.
The other theater kids were so open and welcoming to Nat, and the prominent ones were fleshed out with distinct personalities. I really liked how Rey volunteered to use her unusually strong and athletic arms to give Nat a push or pull whenever she needed it and for carrying her to safety during an emergency during a blackout. Hudson for offering to help her translate the dance moves to something she could do. And Malik for carrying her when her chair couldn’t make it in the woods at the camping retreat. These kids are inspiring and amazing. While I didn’t initially like Savannah, she came through in the end as one of Nat’s most supportive advocates.
This book also touched on first crushes, jealousy, and the problems with moving cross country. Nat and her best friend back home, Chloe, both miss each other terribly and almost lose touch as Nat makes new friends. I’ve moved cross country a LOT. From New Jersey to Florida and back again. And again and again. So this part really hit home. We didn’t have Internet or texting etc. when I first moved in ’94 so it was the classic Pen Pal situation, but I still drifted apart from friends every time I moved, especially as I got to be Nat’s age. So I really appreciate the inclusion of this.
Ali Stroker is a Broadway star who uses a wheelchair for accessibility. Nat’s disability is based off Ali’s, who was also paralyzed from the waist down at the age of two in a car accident. Ali became the first Broadway actress to use a wheelchair and one the Tony for Oklahoma! (which was the first line of the book).
I’d really like to see this become the first in a series where they group puts on a new show every Summer. I give this one Four Lightsabers for the depiction of the the disability, theater life, and moving.