Skip to main content

Unscripted Review


Unscripted by Nicole Kronzer
Overview: Zelda is headed to improv camp with her brother, Will, and his boyfriend, Jonas. They all go to improv class together in Minnesota where they have a great, supportive coach and a balanced team. Zelda is shocked to find out that the esteemed camp, started by her improv idol, does not operate under these same principles. She's one of five girls at the whole camp, and they can't even find a female councilor to watch the girls. As the camp progresses, she's faced with blatant misogyny from her teammates and an emotionally manipulative coach who puts Zelda in a confusing position. Even though Zelda only wants to learn more about improv, she's forced to confront the toxic world she's been thrust into. Overall: 4

Characters: 4 I liked Zelda a lot. She's super relatable. Her focus and drive along with some natural talent has given her some really impressive skills in her writing and on stage. It's also given her a certain amount of security in her talent. But she also has a realistic sense of insecurity. While it feels like everyone around her has found their soulmate, Zelda's never even been kissed. She assumes that no one will ever think of her like that. It's that fear that makes her particularly susceptible to Ben, her 20 year-old coach's advances. She's shocked that someone older and hot would give her the time of day, and that reassurance is enough to override the bad feeling she has about him.
Ben is obviously no good from the start. He flirts with 17 year-old Zelda from the start and becomes progressively more manipulating and intimidating as the book progresses. He flip-flops between yelling and being outwardly hostile to her in class to speaking softly and trying to coerce her in the woods. He claims to care about her but lets the boys on the varsity team put her in compromising positions and makes rude jokes. Ben's character works because he follows all the classic tropes of an abuser while also having that slimy charm that many of them have that makes Zelda doubt her gut instincts.
The other thing that makes Ben's character work in the book and makes the portrayal more responsible is the giant group of friends Zelda has. All of the girls in her cabin rally around her to try to make her feel safe, and Will is one of the first to recognize Ben's behavior for what it is. She has a vast support system that keeps her more aware so that she never fully falls for Ben's hoax. Their support is also very realistic. They're all teens like Zelda who don't have the power to step in to save the day. They encourage Zelda to talk to the camp leaders, but they also respect how she wants to handle things. I also like that as time goes on, more characters come to realize what is happening and work to let Zelda know she's not alone in ways that they think they can. Some of the other coaches start checking on her and even a few of the boys on the team start to realize what's happening isn't okay, even if they aren't strong enough to stand up for her.
The biggest take-away from this giant cast of characters, for me, was that it illustrates just how complex and difficult it is to call out abusive or unfair behavior as a minority, especially when there's no one like you with the power to advocate on your behalf. Zelda is left more vulnerable because there aren't any women on staff for her to go to. The boys who start to recognize the unfair treatment against her are too scared of being looked down or called names to publicly defend her. The camp directors are too concerned about funding and image to listen to her assault complaints and take them seriously. It turns out that few of the people at the camp think that what's happening to Zelda is okay on any level, they just don't want to disrupt their gainful positions to help her.

Plot: 4 There's a good mix of serious discussion and summer camp fun in the book. There are many great scenes of her bonding with her cabin mates and meeting a kind group of Boy Scouts from the neighboring camps. It seems like Nicole put a lot of thought about placing cute scenes to break up the serious moments and showing the whole camp experience.
The arch of Ben's abuse and manipulation, though, is really front and center. Nicole does a good job of adding small details and moments that add up to the larger, scarier encounters. Zelda also has very realistic feelings about what's happening. On the surface, she can see what Ben is doing, but in the moments he is giving her positive attention, she washes all the negative away because they quiet her inner self esteem issues, and it almost feels like validation. She spends a lot of time questioning and confused about if she does want what's happening. When she decides she doesn't, she's a serious victim to the power imbalance and has no adult to turn to. She worries about placating him and defending her place on varsity while also maintaining her personal safety. The more she pulls away, the more aggressive he becomes. Zelda shows how complicated it is to deal with a situation like that, especially in a professional setting. I really commend how Nicole handled the topic. I just wish that the ending had showcased more of what happened when her parents became involved again and the aftermath instead of rushing through it. It felt like an important element had been missed in the full slope of the story.
The other element I didn't really love was the romance with Boy Scout Jesse that sorta came out of nowhere at the end. I liked her hanging out with the Boy Scouts and how they showed a direct foil to the sexist attitude of all the boys at the camp, but I felt like adding a romance to the subplot was just a little much. It seemed like the author used it as a way for Zelda to reclaim the power over her body and romantic life, but it came off as rushed and sudden to me. I would've rather seen Zelda take some space to really process the events of camp before nosediving into this romance with Jesse.

Writing: 4 Overall, the book moved well and flowed nicely. It was engaging, and I managed to read it in two days. My only issues were minor pacing moments. There were scenes that felt way too drawn out and others that felt glossed over, and I wish that the length of some scenes had been switched. Also, the book is heavy on giving full accounts of every day of camp until the end which got a bit tedious at times as camp days often look very similar.
I also wish we'd gotten less middle and a slower unraveling of the ending. I felt like every element was so carefully built, but the resolution was a bit rushed and messy. To do the plot line justice, there needed to be more explaining of what happened with Ben, the Pauls, and the camp. It just felt like a whirlwind, and I felt like Zelda's voice and the emotional impact of it got lost as well. She basically told everyone she was fine, and it didn't have much of an effect so that she could continue focusing on Jesse.

Random Thought: There are so many YA books about improv! I didn't really know that was a major things teens did until I read so many books about it. I know plenty of theater kids in my real life, but none who are focused on improv. I feel like I know all about it now, though!

If You Liked This Book...

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

YA Book Review: This Is My Brain In Love by I.W. Gregorio

This Is My Brain In Love by I.W. Gregorio
Overview: Jocelyn has to save the family restaurant if she wants to stay in Utica. Her family has owned A-Plus, a Chinese restaurant, in the town for most of her life. Now her dad is talking about moving the family back to NYC to start over because the restaurant isn't making enough to stay open. Jocelyn doesn't want to lose her best friend, Priya, or have to start over for her last two years of high school. She takes it upon herself to revamp the restaurant and save her home.
That's where Will comes in. He needs a summer job to prove to his parents and journalism teacher that he can be a leader and hard worker. When he spots Jocelyn's flier, he jumps at the chance to help. It doesn't hurt that he immediately develops a crush on his new boss. While they fight to save the restaurant, they also learn a lot about identity and what it means to care for your mental health. Overall: 4



Characters: 4 I liked Jocelyn and Will, and I&#…

YA Book Picks for Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I think the importance of recognizing it is even clearer this year. According to the WHO, one in four people around the world will be impacted by either a mental or neurological disorder over the course of their lifetime. That means that 450 million people are dealing with one of these conditions. It's amazing to think that the most prevalent health issue worldwide is still so stigmatized and misunderstood. The importance of understanding and being open about mental health is paramount because the silence and stigma that surrounds it leaves people feeling alone, isolated, or stops them from discovering a diagnosis that will put them on the path to healing.
Books play an important role in spreading both empathy and understanding. They allow the reader to live fully in someone else's experience and more deeply understand what it's like for other people. They dispel the idea that people battling these diseases are broken, weird, or s…

End of the Driveway

This is a little flash fiction I wrote the other day and felt like sharing, which I don't usually do on here. I was listening to Sody's song "Charlotte" and thinking about friend break ups (which we've all been through) and how haunting they are. I was also looking for silver linings with the world being turned upside down. We're all losing a lot, but I wanted to write a little glimpse of two people who got something back. Anyway, I'm not sure what my point is, so I guess just enjoy. 
This is called "End of the Driveway". 

You’re at the end of my driveway. I never thought that would happen.  I’m sitting up at the top of it with my back pressed against the splintery wood of the garage. It’s fitting, isn’t it? We’re trying to close the unspoken gap of hurt between us, but we’ve got a giant gulf of black asphalt to separate us now.  “I don’t mind this social distancing thing so much anymore,” I say softly.  “What!” You shout because you’re far away, and…

Into YA with Zan Romanoff

I'm so excited to have Zan Romanoff on the blog today to talk about her fabulous book, Look. Before I read it, I'd heard tons of amazing things from other authors and fellow bookstagrammers. When my library hold finally came in, I fully understood why. It's by far one of my top books for the year. I've been gushing about this book to everyone who will listen. It's a completely unique experience. If you haven't gotten a chance to read it, check out my review from earlier in the week to get some context for our conversation (here). Knowing how many of you already love the book, it was extra exciting to get to work on this interview. I hope you find it as interesting as I did. 
I want to thank Zan for taking the time to answer my questions. This is the longest interview I've ever done for Into YA, but I was bursting with questions by the time I finished the book. Her answers are fascinating and so thoughtful. Links to her website are at the end of the interview…

What I Like About You Review

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter
Overview: Kels is a popular teen blogger. On One True Pastry (OTP) she pairs cute cupcakes with her YA reviews. Over the years, she's gained the attention of the book world being featured in media articles and hosting major cover reveals. She's also found a community with her fellow teen book lovers and met her best friend, Nash. Sure, her IRL social life is close to nonexistent because she moves so often, but that doesn't matter as much. The only problem? Her latest move to Middleton, Connecticut puts her face to face with Nash. Her Nash- who doesn't know that he's staring at his best friend and crush because Kels is a pseudonym. Nash is meeting Halle for the first time. Will Halle be able to connect her two worlds before they destroy each other, or will she be too scared of being left to tell the truth? Overall: 5
(Get ready for this review cause it's going to be loooong. I have way too many thoughts on this book)

Character…

YA Book Review: Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab

Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab
TW: Discussions of self harm, Manipulative behavior, Discussions of bipolar disorder 
Overview: Susannah has one major life goal: qualify for the swim team at the Olympics. She had a major triumph at the Worlds competition when she was 14, but dealing with the changes in her body and an injury has slowed her down. With a new couch, though, she's working on using a different approach to get back on top. As swimming comes back together, her relationship with fellow swimmer, Harry, starts to fall apart, threatening to distract her from her ultimate goal. Over the course of sophomore year, Susannah struggles to find balance while fighting to achieve her ultimate goal. Overall: 3.5



Characters: 3 Susannah was my favorite part of the book. I like the glimpses of friends and family moments mixed with her view on swimming. She has a hard time figuring out how she feels about the sport anymore. She loves being in the water, but there's also so much more to …

YA Book Review: Look by Zan Romanoff

Look by Zan Romanoff
Overview: Lulu is kinda famous on Flash, the hot new social media app created by a Riggs brother. Yes, it's partially because she used to date Owen whose dad is a famous rockstar, and the notoriety hasn't been the smoothest sailing, but Lulu is well aware that the world is watching her. On the outside, her life at an elite, private high school, living in beautiful LA houses, and going to the hottest parties looks like the ultimate dream. On the inside, Lulu is wondering why she does any of it anymore. Then she meets Cass at a party and forms an instant connection. Cass just doesn't care like everyone else around her. When they leave the party and end up at the Hotel, neither of them notice a major shift that will alter their paths for better or worse. Overall: 5

I should've known this was going to be amazing when I saw all my favorite authors blurbing it.

Characters: 5 All of the characters in this book are extraordinary complex, which I love. They ha…

Conan Gray's Kid Krow Meets YA

For today's Music Meets YA, I wanted to pair books with one of my favorite recent albums that's been getting me through self isolation. Conan writes the most interesting, witty lyrics and pairs it with careful production that makes it come to life. Think Billie Eilish meets Taylor Swift, in a way. I've also loved watching Cony's old YouTube videos lately because of their positivity. They always make me feel better. I hope you enjoy these song pairings! Let me know in the comments what pairings you would make. Have you listened to the album? Do you have more pairing suggestions?

What I Like About You (Online Love)
What I Like About You centers around an online relationship between Kels and Nash. They're both very invested and think they could be more than friends, but because they only know each other in the online world, they don't think they'll ever get a chance to discover what might be. That's the crux of "Online Love", a short but meaningfu…

Into YA with Marisa Kanter

I'm so excited to get to introduce today's guest on Into YA, Marisa Kanter! Her debut book, What I Like About You, has been one of my top picks of the year, and I talk about it all the time. I loved getting to read a book that valued online friendship and connection so much, and as strange as it was at times, focused on a book blogger. I've both never felt so seen and called out by a character whose life looked scarily like mine. Also, these teens feel like teens through and through, and Marisa never discounts their potential. It's inspiring to see someone move through the book community from teen blogger to author. Marisa and I discuss that, online personas, who YA is really for, what's next for her career, and more. If you haven't had the chance to read What I Like About You, make sure you check out my review so that you have a bit of context for our conversation. 

1. Halle, or Kels, runs a book blog called One True Pastry where she pairs cupcakes with books. …

Top Reads of 2018

This year's best of 2018 list has tons of new categories to fit all of the amazing books I read this year. I've had the chance to read so many advanced books and recent releases, so most of what I read were books that came out in 2018. I mostly choose contemporary, so I've started with my favorite debut as well as the best books in other genres I've ventured into. After that, I have smaller categories in the contemporary genre. I hope you find new books to love and give to your friends and family for the holidays. If you're interested in learning more about the books on the list, click their titles to go to my reviews. Let me know if these are some of your favorites in the comments, and tell me your favorite books!
Best In Genre Top Debut
Nothing Left To Burn by Heather Ezell Nothing Left To Burn gave me the craziest book hangover. I was so immersed in the story, and I couldn't stop reading to do anything that I actually needed to be doing. There is a toxic relat…