By Linas Alsenas
Available now from Harry N. Abrams (ABRAMS)
I keep passing BEYOND CLUELESS in my Kindle and thinking, "What book is that? It's marked that I read it." Then I open it up and remember. "Oh yeah! That one." BEYOND CLUELESS was a cute little read (with a subplot about sexual assault), but the details just keep falling out of my head.
Marty and Jimmy always thought they'd be best friends for life, but two recent events have strained their friendship. Marty's parents sent her to an all-girls school and Jimmy came out and started making new friends in the local gay community. Marty finds a way to bridge the old and the new by joining her school's performance of Into the Woods. Boys are needed for the musical, so some of Jimmy's friends can be in it and the rest can be crew. And Marty definitely thinks things are looking up when she's cast as Little Red Riding Hood against the very attractive Felix Peroni as the Wolf. (Clearly, she doesn't take that as a symbolic bad sign.)
I liked that both Marty and Jimmy made new friends once they were separated. Jimmy takes to it a little bit better, but Marty does find other girls she can hang with, especially Xiang. I also enjoyed Linas Alsenas explorations of her failures to be socially adept, such as when she ostracizes someone herself even though she didn't mean to be cruel. Her difficulties navigating what other people are feeling felt realistic. So did her trouble understanding and articulating her own feelings, especially when she got something she thought she wanted only to discover she wasn't feeling it at all.
I think BEYOND CLUELESS will appeal to young theater fans, especially since it doesn't ignore the importance of the crew. Jimmy's relatively easy coming out probably holds more appeal than more dated portrayals. Marty's difficulties with her relationship with Felix are handled well. Generally, I can't point to anything in BEYOND CLUELESS I didn't like. Remembering that I read it is the only problem.