Genre: YA, LGBT+ Romance
Avid Broadway listener and huge fan of queer YA, I can honestly say that I’ve never read a novelization of a musical. Right off the bat, it’s evident that this was once a stage production. Although that’s difficult to judge when this is a play whose soundtrack I’ve blasted nonstop over the past few months.
But musicals aren’t for everyone and this story is all about reach. That’s why there’s a book as well as a movie coming soon. For people to see themselves in Alyssa Greene and Emma Nolan’s relationship they have to first encounter it. So, yes, I’m all for novelizations of musicals. Not to mention that this is much more accessible to those who are hard of hearing or deaf. Everyone deserves representation.
After a few chapters, it begins to feel as if Alyssa Greene is the villain. Or at least the antihero. Unless you’re LGBT+ identified person, you won't know what it’s like to be afraid to come out. Because, yes, it does feel like Emma is doing all of the heavy lifting. She sticks her neck out for queer rights while her girlfriend won’t even hold her hand in the stairwell. Alyssa Greene seems like a coward. Unless you get it. I get it. Emma came out (albeit accidentally). Once you’re out, you’re free to judge those who aren’t. Emma doesn’t judge and I think that their relationship is stronger for it.
I also have to give it up for the clever chapter titles. Most of them are either references to theatre itself or lines from popular Broadway musicals (mostly Wicked).
Halfway through the book, the (first) prom begins. It stands up to its name in that things start to happen until prom. This is the culmination of all of the first half of the story. This is where Alyssa must make a decision. Does she save herself from homelessness and the loss of her mother or ignore the girl she loves on one of the most important nights of her life? But any option is taken away from her when her mother (and the rest of the PTA) do something that I wasn’t expecting. They make a fake, empty prom at the high school for Emma alone while throwing a private “real” prom somewhere else for the rest of the students.
“Love Thy Neighbor” is my favorite song in Prom: The Musical. Its chapter in the book is even better. Barry Glickman (one of the Broadway actors who is picketing for Emma’s right to prom) makes a respectful and knowledgeable argument against choosing what is, and isn’t, considered sin in the Bible.
It’s obvious that this novel was written by a queer person. In the last few pages, once Alyssa has come out to her mom and she and Emma are on their way to the queer prom, there’s a line that really got to me: “I don’t think cis, straight people realize how many of our kisses happen out of sight. As magical as it is to hold hands in the movies, it’s incredible to hold hands on the street.” That’s it. That’s what it’s like to be out, gay, and happy in Indiana