“A nuanced exploration of how to reconcile faith and identity. Melleby’s clear, honest voice expertly captures the frustration, awkwardness, and fear of being vulnerable—as well as the potential rewards…This funny, tender, and heart-wrenching story will have readers calling for an encore.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
About the Book
IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHENS…
By Nicole Melleby
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Hardcover: 272 pages ISBN: 9781616209070
Genre: Middle Grade, LGBT, Contemporary
Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.
Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.
All Brie wants is to get into the performing arts high school of her dreams and go on to become a soap opera star! She’s not a very good student but when her parents agree to let her apply to the performing arts school she puts much more effort into her schoolwork. She also goes out for the school play to show them that she can do it!
Brie felt like a junior high aged character. She was a bit selfish and bratty at times but I feel like most young people at that age aren’t sure how to handle certain situations. Her dad lost his job and her mom has had to pick up the slack but Brie has a hard time seeing how that affects her life when all she see’s is what she wants. When her mom finds out she likes girls it puts a strain on their relationship and now have to navigate this new normal.
The family dynamics were definitely a fore front of this novel. Not only are they dealing with economic struggles due to her father losing his job due to mental illness but her mom is also faced with a moral struggle when she finds out Brie likes girls. The way her parents reacted to this realization felt realistic to me. Both navigate it in different ways and I think it really brings them closer to Brie in a lot of ways. Especially her father who doesn’t have the same kind of relationship Brie has with her mother.
I thought Brie’s character arc was well done and by the end of the book she really recognized how much her parents have done for her. It was also good to see how her relationship with her parents changed throughout the story and I felt that it was portrayed in a very positive way.
Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. When she’s not writing, she can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.
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