Backstage by Caitlyn Duffy is a bit like buying a budget brand shampoo and then realising it was better than you expected. You hair stays cleaner longer and you love the smell. I found myself speeding through the book at an unusually fast pace, just because it was so easy to read.
Duffy creates an instantly like-able heroine in Cassie, who is not only altruistic, with a strong sense of morality, but she is actually cool in a completely unpretentious way. I especially liked it when she compares her hair colour to “the colour of nausea”. However, Cassie has a jaded side due to a distant relationship with her mother and frequent moving due to her mother’s occupation which has an influence on her willingness to make and keep friends.
The plot is driven initially by an overly enthusiastic theatre teacher who initially encourages the reluctant Cassie into taking a chance on working on a school play, but quickly develops into a coming of age story which many can relate to in some way. It doesn’t take long before Cassie meets a boy through the theatre club and becomes enamoured with him. Despite being warned to stay away from him, Cassie follows him to an American Idol type audition which will surely make him a star. With awkward first kisses and all of the unnerving uncertain aspects of a developing teenage romance, at times the plot can be anticipated, but suffice to say that Duffy does not leave the reader disappointed and the ending takes a surprising turn.
One of Duffy’s talents appears to be her ability to move a plot line along without excessive dialogue from the characters. When her characters speak, it is because they have something to contribute, and dialogue is not used as a filling agent to pad the story. She also appears comfortable using pop-culture references and cameo characters from her other novels to build anticipation.
Overall Duffy has created a story which is both engaging and easy to read, but also has a sense of individuality and morality. Some of the story has a comfortable predictability, however because the main characters are both easily likeable with a rebellious streak, I found myself rooting for them throughout the novel. The ending is unexpectedly sedate, but leaves you feeling good about where each of the characters are in their lives and how they will proceed.
Genre: Young Adult