Avon Books, 1987. 978-0380705252
Synopsis: When Ed Sitrow finds out that his best friend Pete Saltz is in love with bookworm Anabell Stackpoole, he and his classmates create the perfect plan to get the two together: performing Romeo and Juliet. The only problem is, Pete and Anabell can barely look at each other during rehearsals and Hamilton, the school bully, is trying to take the part of Romeo and make a joke out of the production. Will the show go on? Can Pete and Anabell make it through the kissing scenes? Middle school love is much more complicated than it looks!
Why I picked it up: The title grabbed me, especially since Romeo and Juliet is one of the more popular Shakespeare plays studied in school. Plus, being the veteran of many a school play, I wanted to see what would happen.
Why I finished it: Being a middle schooler in love is funny in hindsight, but not when it is happening. Avi manages to capture equal parts humor, equal parts awkward romance along with the confusion of trying to do things without the help or supervision of adults. Ed’s adaptation of the play is comprised of largely scenes with the most famous lines (which the teacher had them highlight) and it is hard to keep from laughing reading about how everything that could go wrong does: lines are forgotten, the set progressively falls apart, and someone has taken the labels off the switches for the lights and the curtain. Added to that is Pete’s equation of middle school love being like a peanut butter cookie that you don’t eat but you know it’s good is very funny and true. Love will never work out perfectly, but trying to figure it out is almost as rewarding for the characters as it is for the reader.
Other related materials: S.O.R. Losers by Avi; A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban; Skinnybones by Barbara Park; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Park; Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli; Mercy on These Teenage Chimps by Gary Soto; The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt; Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl; The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood