Summary (from the publisher):Lifelong rivals Natalie and Reid have never been on the same team. So when their school’s art budget faces cutbacks, of course Natalie finds herself up against her nemesis once more. She’s fighting to direct the school’s first ever student-written play, but for her small production to get funding, the school’s award-winning band will have to lose it. Reid’s band. And he’s got no intention of letting the show go on.
But when their rivalry turns into an all-out prank war that goes too far, Natalie and Reid have to face the music, resulting in the worst compromise: writing and directing a musical. Together. At least if they deliver a sold-out show, the school board will reconsider next year’s band and theater budget. Everyone could win.
Except Natalie and Reid.
Because after spending their entire lives in competition, they have absolutely no idea how to be co-anything. And they certainly don’t know how to deal with the feelings that are inexplicably, weirdly, definitely developing between them…
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
After falling head over heels from Marisa Kanter’s debut in 2020, What I Like About You (featuring a book blogger & bookish baker), I had to get my hands on her upcoming sophomore novel, As If on Cue.
This YA novel takes on one of my all-time favorite tropes, enemies-to-lovers, set against a high school musical that needs to go well in order to save Natalie’s drama club and Reid’s school band. Natalie and Reid have been rivals since their middle school days, competing for clarinet first chair and Natalie’s music instructor of a dad’s attention. After a prank gone wrong in middle school, Natalie and Reid’s high school rivalry escalates even further when their high schools’ arts budget is cut, with Natalie losing the drama club… but more than enough funds still allocated for Reid’s award-winning band, led by Natalie’s dad. When a prank goes too far once again, Natalie and Reid are forced to convert Natalie’s play into a musical and create a production that will convince the school board to bring back money for the arts.
As If on Cue was a fun enemies-to-lovers that felt really unique for its musical premise. I love a good enemies-to-lovers featuring school rivals (hello Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Today Tonight Tomorrow) and As If on Cue reminded me why I love this trope so much through Marisa Kanter’s storytelling. The book transitions between Reid and Natalie’s current prank war and being forced to run the school musical together, while going back to their middle school years and the prank that cemented their rivalry for good. I love revisiting their past while seeing them working through their issues and coming together in the present (with a few bumps down the road of course).
What also makes As if on Cue unique is the added tension from Natalie and Reid’s relationship with Natalie’s dad. Natalie’s dad is the school musical teacher and Reid’s private music tutor, often encouraging Natalie and Reid to compete with one another and vie for his attention. Reid wants to pursue music in college, despite his parents’ wishes, while Natalie doesn’t see the point pursuing art professionally with her dad’s music teaching job on the life and her mom experiencing writer’s block as a published author (also the book nerd in me loved learning about Natalie’s mom’s career as a writer!)
Marisa Kanter’s love for musical theater is clear, especially through Reid. I do admit that I felt kind’ve meh about the Frozen inspired musical – it felt very current as a response to climate change, but it was almost too much Disney for me/trying to be Frozen. I think having such a well-known and loved movie like Frozen probably made it easier for readers to imagine the show.
The book also features diversity surrounding religion, specifically Judaism, and sexuality. Natalie and Reid are both Jewish and their families often celebrate the holidays together – the book is set from fall through winter, so we experience the families’ Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah celebrations. There are also multiple conversations about antisemitism, as a classmate calls Natalie an extremely insulting name and Natalie’s younger sister is made fun of by two classmates for her bat mitzvah.
Overall, I really enjoyed As If on Cue for well executing so many elements, from romance to friendship, family, to post high school dreams. Marisa Kanter is definitely a staple author of mine & can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!
As If on Cue comes out on September 21st, 2021.
This review is based on an advance reviewer copy provided by the publisher. By no means did receiving this ARC affect my thoughts or opinions.
Is As If on Cue on your TBR? Have you read What I Like About You? What are some of your favorite musicals? Share in the comments!