Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer

Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date:  February 15, 2011
Rating: 4.5 Bookcases

The Short of It:

Rival is a story about two girls who used to be friends and now are, pretty much, bitter rivals.  With realistic teen characters, great dialog, and an ending the lets both main characters shine, it is a must read for 2011.

The Long of It:

Brooke is the queen bee of Douglas High; she loves music and is in choir even though it isn’t “cool.”  Kathryn is the social outcast, also in choir (a soprano), and she used to be Brooke’s best friend.  How did these two become enemies and rivals? It all goes back to junior year and what happened at an after Homecoming party.  Now Brooke makes Kathryn’s life hell.  And Kathryn, well, any chance to outperform Brooke - she’ll take it.  That’s one way to look at it.
            Soon, the two of them will compete in the prestigious Blackmore competition.  Both Kathryn and Brooke want to win, will their rivalry get the best of the, or will they find a way to mend their friendship?

Ms. Wealer does not hold punches, she starts in the middle of the story and within a couple of pages it’s clear who Brooke and Kathryn are personality wise and the lines are drawn, so to speak.  Kathryn, the outcast, and Brooke, Miss Queen Bee, both felt like real teenagers.  From the beginning, it was easy to see how just how much alike the two girls were despite their very opposite circumstances.  Despite, not being as much as a music nut as either character, I found them both to be very relatable.  In addition, the dialog, cliques, frenemies and rumor mill could be right out of an actual high school.  Told from both of their points of view as they prepare for the Blackmore and with flashbacks to junior year, the book chronicles exactly how Brooke and Kathryn became friends and how they ended up rivals.

The dual points of view worked well because you get to see both sides of the friendship and exactly what happened to end it.  Even though you, as the reader, know more than either Brooke or Kathryn, you don’t have the whole picture either, because Ms. Wealer keeps certain details hidden until late in the book.  It’s a pretty brilliant plan because you want to know the details, the hows and whys of Brooke and Kathryn’s rivalry - at least I did, but maybe I’m just nosy.  And when “the reason” was finally revealed, I wanted to shake both girls and then sit them down and make them tell each other exactly what they were thinking when everything changed.

Ms. Wealer also did a terrific job of showing just how Brooke and Kathryn’s friendship and rivalry affected them and those around them.  Nowhere is this more evident than with Brooke and Kathryn’s best friends: Chloe and Matt.  Matt is on the geeky side and it’s hinted at that Kathryn is his only friend, but he would do just about anything for her- he’s exactly the type of guy you want on your side.  Kathryn doesn’t really know just how good of a friend he is until she almost loses his friendship.  Chloe, on the other hand, is all about being part of the popular group; she’s the master manipulator who twists situations so that she always comes out on top. Brooke shoved her aside when Kathryn came on the scene and Chloe turned her jealousy into revenge of the highest order.  I wondered, a lot, why Brooke would be friends with someone like Chloe and could only come up with that Chloe wanted to be best friends with Brooke so much that Brooke gave in. 

I really enjoyed reading Rival.  The first section flew by quickly and by that point, I was invested in the story and the characters that I had to read to the end.  And the ending!  This ending just blew me away.   All throughout the story, the girls are training and preparing for the Blackmore and I just knew that it would play a big part at the end.  I was rooting for Kathryn and Brooke equally, knowing how badly they both wanted the victory.  The end result could have gone a lot of different ways, but Ms. Wealer found a way to let both Brooke and Kathryn shine.  Each of their separate story lines were tied up beautifully and the overarching line ended with just enough answers and few questions too - which is really all you can ask for in an ending.

Rival is a must read for 2011.

***This review is based on an ARC borrowed from Book It Forward ARC Tours***


  1. This sounds really fun. Your recommendation was great.

  2. I wasn't sure about this one, it seemed like it would just be a lot of back and forth. It actually sounds like a book I would enjoy. I'm now curious to know what caused the rivalry. Thanks for the review. :)

  3. Well said. I'm glad that so far all reviews of Rival have been very positive. :) I just hope this hype doesn't come to bite me. I already pre-ordered a copy. Thanks for the review!

  4. @Cass (Words on Paper) I didn't know that much about Rival when I signed up for the ARC tour other than the summary really. And I didn't look at any reviews before I read it, so this is my honest opinion of the story and characters and the writing. I hope that you do enjoy Rival when you read it :)

  5. I received this ARC to review for VOYA and I also really enjoyed it. From the summary of the book, it seemed like it would be "ok". But once I started the book, I just couldn't put it down!

    Here is my review: http://bookjessicalover85.blogspot.com/2010/12/rival-is-first-book-i-received-to.html


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