Cardboard Characters by Julie Seifert Review

Cardboard Characters by Julie Seifert
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Age: YA
Genre: Contemporary, School, Acting, Drama, realistic fiction
Format: ebook
Source: author for review
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble
Set under the boiling sun of Tampa, Florida, the young adult novel, CARDBOARD CHARACTERS, tells the story of sixteen-year-old Leah Bergan, a girl who knows that you can’t build a boat out of cardboard. And you should trust her on that. She and her best friend, Eddie, have been trying for months. And not just cardboard: plastic, paper, the hood of a junk-yard car. They’re running out of ideas and time. Time gets even tighter when Leah is accidentally cast as the lead in her high school’s play. Suddenly, Leah is stuck in the spotlight -- and stuck going to four hour rehearsals. Instead of being surrounded by the ocean, she’s now surrounded by a bunch of wacky drama kids, who like to stare deeply into the distance and make up stories about doors.

Leah just wants to survive the play without humiliating herself, but the student director, Minerva Watson, has other plans. To Leah, it seems like Minerva only has two goals in life: 1) Turn Leah into an actress, whether she likes it or not and 2) Keep the drama club from getting shut down by the student government. But when one of Minerva’s schemes involves Leah’s friend Eddie, Leah is forced to choose between protecting him and lying to everyone, including her long-lost love, Nathan, or telling the truth and losing everything. Then, of course, things go horribly wrong, and Leah ends up stuck twenty miles outside a town called Christmas, next to a gift store selling alligator meat. But with the help of her crazy cast-mates, Leah might just make it home, take the stage and even finish her boat, learning a little bit about life, love, and character development along the way.
If I was going to take one sentence from Julie's witty story Cardboard Characters which I would sum up as; a story about a misplaced teenager finding her way, it would be:
"But that shouldn't surprise you, since I'm clearly a hardcore gangster."
Out of context you might be saying to yourself, "Really Carole, Really?" Yes really! Read it! It's books like this one that make me miss High School. The fun, the drama, and the friendships that evolved there. Cardboard Characters really took me back (I was an art nerd, you know, painting, pottery, and whatever else got me out of gym). I had that first crush, that class I took just to relax, the place I ate lunch, the friends I hung out with and those I avoided like the plague, the crazy things we did, and I also had that semester or year when everything seemed to fall apart. For Leah, it all began with a monologue.

Disaster strikes when Leah tries her best to do her worst monologue for a part in a school play (written by another student, Minerva) and [as some sick joke to her] gets cast as the lead. Her best friend Eddie thinks it's great, Leah on the other hand, not so much. As practice for the play begins so does a bunch of other problems, mainly money problems the drama club is facing. And, from there, it just gets better. To help their troubles the student government sends in Nathan, the treasurer, and also Leah's old current crush.

Back to my favorite relationship of the book, Eddie and Leah. Eddie and Leah are pretty much the ultimate best friends. They pretend to be spies and thieves and have these elaborate games they play, I WANT AN EDDIE IN MY LIFE, they understand each other! And, Leah is just plain hilarious (I love evil Leah), from the very beginning I knew we were all going to get along.
"It's official: Evil Leah has been awakened. Well, Actually, lately it seems like she wakes up every once in awhile, does something dumb, and then goes back to sleep, leaving me to deal with the mess."  
It's great.

While cracking me up, Julie also has a real talent for making the reader emotionally attached to her characters. Throughout the book I found myself cheering on certain characters (Kyle, an actor in the drama club) and booing others (Vinnie, student government president). The relationships between the students in drama club get stronger as the story goes and as events unfold that could mean the end to their play and the department. Working together this group of spunky teens hope to overcome some obstacles and along the way Leah begins to realize some things about her life.

Leah's confidence wanes, she starts to question and think about things like Eddie's feelings for her, Nathan and her feelings for him, and more. She's a well-rounded, relatable character and it's fun to hear her thoughts even if she is a little crazy. Not everyone is perfect.

Overall Cardboard Characters is a delightful and real YA contemporary. It has a sunny setting and a slew of great characters, cardboard and not.

And with that, I leave you with another great phrase from the inner workings of Leah's brain:
"So, I bet you're wondering what Minerva's play is about. Yeah, join the club. (But not the drama club. Har dee har har.) I've been trying to figure that out ever since we started rehearsals two weeks ago."
So go, read Cardboard Characters and laugh with me at some of the inside jokes!


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