Brooke and Kathryn were best friends, but a misunderstanding causes them to become rivals at the end of their junior year of high school. When senior year begins, both girls are entered into the same prestigious singing competition. The love of music that once united them now only serves to tear them farther apart. Brooke and Kathryn see the competition as a way out; Brooke wants to use it as a path to a career as a professional singer, and Kathryn needs the scholarship money to attend college. But only one of them can win.
Rival is written from both Brooke and Katheryn’s point of views, alternating between present time and junior year. As the story unfolds, readers learn more about the events that led to the demise of their friendship, as well as what is at stake in winning the singing competition. Its a quick read, in part because once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop until I found out who won. (I was tired the next day, but it was worth it.)
Wealer captures the nuances of female friendship and high school competitiveness perfectly. Brooke and Kathryn are both jealous of each other; Brooke envies Kathryn’s close-knit family, while Kathryn admires Brooke’s popularity and wealth. They each have problems with their own self-images, and read too much into each others’ actions as a result, seeing offenses where none were intended. As their disputes over boys and friends and family secrets grow more intense, the popular girls’ abuse of the less popular Kathryn increases, going beyond what Brooke ever intended. The high school caste system doles out more than its share of nastiness to keep Kathryn in her “place.” As it turns out, though, Kathryn learns that popularity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, finding that her real friend, Matt, is there for her after her falling out with everyone else.
It was a pleasant change of pace to read a book more interested in character development and friendship than romance (not to say that I don’t like romance, but I don’t need it ALL the time). I also enjoyed the depiction of extracurricular activities, college and scholarship applications, and school work. This is much closer to the reality I lived in high school than most YA books I encounter. For readers who enjoy contemporary realistic fiction, this is a book I would highly recommend.