Last Reviewed on February 18, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1265
Fifteen at the beginning of the novel, Sarah is an aspiring actress studying at the Citywide Academy for the Performing Arts (CAPA). She’s an edgy, punky loner, and she is somewhat secretive about her personal life—she hides her weekend job from her classmates, and when she falls in love with David, she hides that relationship, too. When things don’t work out, she turns to Mr. Kingsley for comfort. Later, she begins a relationship with Liam.
The first half of the book is told from her perspective, detailing her struggle to cope with the breakup and the social environment at CAPA. When the narrative shifts to Karen’s perspective, we learn that Sarah ultimately becomes a writer. The first half of the novel is a portion of her semiautobiographical novel, and we learn that she has taken some creative license with the events of the past. Karen also informs us that Sarah isn’t her real name—in fact, none of the names we’ve learned are real, although we never learn the alternatives.
David, also fifteen, is a fellow acting student at CAPA. He is Sarah’s primary love interest through much of the first half of the story. He’s cultured and well-traveled, and lives in one of the nicest houses in the area.
In Karen’s narrative, we learn that David eventually moves back to their hometown and becomes a theater director. He and Karen maintain an ongoing friendship, which she primarily attributes to nostalgia on his part—even in adulthood, David is still living in the glow of the past. He finds it especially hard to cope with the allegations against Martin and decides to stage one of Martin’s plays as a show of support for his old friend.
In Sarah’s narrative, Karen Wurtzel is a stoic, serious CAPA student. Toward the end of the story, Karen enters into a relationship with Martin, a forty-year-old teacher from England.
In Karen’s narrative, we learn more: Karen and Sarah are at one point very close, and the two eventually travel together to visit Liam and Martin in England. When they get there, Sarah is greeted enthusiastically by Liam. Martin is nowhere to be found, and Karen goes home alone. She realizes when she gets there that she’s pregnant with his baby, and she spends two terms at a Bible school before giving the baby up for adoption.
When we meet her again in her early thirties, she’s been through a great deal of therapy and prefers to make sense of the world by categorizing it. She’s sensible and matter-of-fact, finding great comfort in organization and etymology. She maintains an easy friendship with David, despite the knowledge that his interest in her is primarily based on her ability to connect him with his past. Despite years of therapy, she isn’t without anger: when she costars in David’s play with Martin, she injures him onstage.
From Karen, we also learn that Sarah has minimized her friendship with Karen in the novel by creating three new characters that embody the broader characteristics of their relationship: Joelle Cruz, Pammie, and Julietta.
Mr. Kingsley is a charismatic and theatrical drama teacher at CAPA. Through trust exercises, he forces students to bare their innermost thoughts in front of each other. He often takes a special interest in his students based on what they reveal about themselves during these sessions, and he makes a habit of inviting certain students to enjoy lunch with him in his private office.
He shows himself to be kind, caring, and supportive to his students, but also to be manipulative and overly forward with them. Sarah’s mother ultimately files a complaint against him because of his overreach.
In Sarah’s narrative, we’re told that he lives with his husband. Through Claire’s narrative, however, we are encouraged to consider that Sarah may have considerably...
(The entire section contains 1265 words.)
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