Friday, February 27, 2015

Starring Arabelle, by Hillary Hall De Baun

She hopes to make a strong initial impression as she starts ninth grade this year.  Arabelle wishes that she could make a big statement simply by gliding into a room, the way the heroine of her favorite romance novel does.  Unfortunately, her plan of achieving her aims through trying out for the school play get ruined by a jealous upperclassman and her guidance counselor's insistence that she volunteer at a local nursing home.

These set backs are temporary.  She still manages to get involved in the play and the residents of the home where she is volunteering prove to provide her with unanticipated opportunities and benefits.  Quirky characters and several heartwarming subplots explore the topic of romance, which forms the central obsession of Arabelle's life.

It's a book with lots of clever ideas, but stiff writing and wooden characters. For example, Arabelle's obsession with romance is early on established with her love of a particular romance novel, but the plot point never goes anywhere.  The obvious point of intersection would be with the real life romance in the story, but they never quite meet.  As another example, the quirky characters are all colorful and introduced fully, but none of their quirks really contribute to the story.  It's as if the author, by filling the scene with so much color, accepts that the job is done and so it's now back to the story (which really has nothing to do with any of these characters).  A creative work, but ultimately in need of more development and engineering.

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