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…
The enemies-to-lovers trope is easily one of my favorites because I love that tension between two characters who can’t stand one another, but can’t imagine life without each other. I mean, that should be the dead giveaway, right? If the thought of that person no longer being in your life hurts you, then you know you actually like them (or are in love with them).
This is the case for Natalie and Reid, who have been at each other’s throats since childhood clarinet lessons with Natalie’s father. Even years after Natalie quit playing the clarinet, she and Reid still have their prank wars once in a while. So when all the arts clubs, aside from band, get cut from school funding, their prank war goes too far and they end up having to co-direct a school musical that’s to be performed to save the arts programs.
I loved both Natalie and Reid as characters. Their banter was perfection as well as the slow-burn romance between them. Reid is the first to show some vulnerability toward Natalie when he begins composing for the musical (which is converted from a play she wrote with her best friend, Henry), and this shows Natalie that Reid isn’t necessarily as arrogant about music as she thinks he is. Natalie, on the other hand, realizes her resentment toward Reid is stemmed from the fact that her dad seems to favor him and the band over her. At times it seems like she’s just playing the victim, but I can also see where she’s coming from. Honestly, both of them could be immature at times, but that’s just natural for teenagers (and hell, even some adults are immature at times in a not-so-good way).
The other characters in this story were all fantastic as well. It was a diverse cast of characters, but the ones I really liked were Natalie’s best friends, Fitz and Henry, and Natalie and Reid’s younger sisters. I especially loved the interactions with all these characters. They had great chemistry, banter, and weren’t afraid to call each other out on their bull-crap. As far as the sibling relationships go, not only were Natalie and Reid good with their own sisters, but each others’.
Despite not being involved in theatre or band growing up, I really enjoyed those aspects of these characters’ backgrounds, and how they were put together with other arts programs to save their funding. I thought it was a great emphasis on how arts programs really are suffering in schools, when in fact, they’re just as important as the general education courses. I think it’s also great that this author included Jewish representation and discussed the issue of casual antisemitism.
There was just a lot to love about this book, and I think I would’ve loved it more if I hadn’t been struggling through a reading (well, more like “life”) slump while reading this. At least I never wanted to give up on it, as I normally do in slumps. So it’s one I obviously recommend, especially if you love theatre, band, and musicals.
Rating: 4/5 stars