Did I only buy this book because it says that it’s the UK’s Answer To Rainbow Rowell on the front? Possibly. Was it? Not a chance.
Author: Maggie Harcourt
Hope dreams of working backstage in a theatre, and she’s determined to make it without the help of her famous costume designer mum. So when she lands an internship on a major production, she tells no one. But with a stroppy Hollywood star and his hot young understudy upstaging Hope’s focus, she’s soon struggling to keep her cool… and her secret.
With Theatrical, I was looking for a light, fun read so I didn’t have super high expectations. Luckily. It follows Hope, who’s working at a local theatre as they prepare for a new play, where she meets a handsome and mysterious understudy – but she has to hide her involvement from a famous mum and her over-achieving sisters. Have you heard any of that before? It just felt so predictable. I could go down a list ticking off all the staple components of a mediocre YA novel: mysterious boy with nice eyes, tick, hinted at gay best friend, lying to parents then everything comes crashing down; tick tick tick.
Next, there was no real aim. Hope ran errands for 75% of the book. Especially at first, this was half interesting and I’m genuinely interested in how it all works, but there were too many massive blocks of description or explanations. A lot of scenes in the theatre felt more like a guide to theatre basics than a story.
But that’s what acting is… right? It is being exposed and vulnerable – it’s not about putting on extra layers of protection and pretending to be someone else, it’s about taking them off and pretending they’re you.– THEATRICAL
For me, it’s so important that the love interest is a character first and a love interest second. Theatrical is sold as a rom-com but all that we know about The Boy TM after 200 pages is the colour of his eyes (although I know A LOT about his eyes). I didn’t see the connection between Hope and Luke? He didn’t come across very strongly and they were both as hopelessly awkward as each other. Which didn’t make for a cute, bumbling relationship… it was the bad type of cringey.
Also, Theatrical is pretty long for a YA rom-com and so long for not much character development from Hope. I found myself much more invested in the side characters. Especially in the beginning, it was pretty funny; it reminded me of Holly’s Bourne’s sort of humour. But as the book went on, it became less about the jokes and more about theatre and Luke’s eyes and awkward stumbling into each other.
To sum up, Theatrical felt like such shame because it could have been so good. I’m genuinely interested in how theatre works but it dwindled through 400 pages of totally expected plot developments. I don’t know enough about fundamental book writing to technically fault it – or to technically identify what I’m feeling. I think it’s just a badly written book and I’m only scratching the surface with complaints about love interests or info dumps. I can see some people enjoying Theatrical but this type of rom-com isn’t for me.
Have you read Theatrical? Were you also bored by descriptions of Luke’s eyes or did you enjoy it? Would you try it? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear another opinion.