Sandee Mason is convinced her life will change if she can just win applause for her talents–whatever they may be. She can’t wait to accomplish something after living in the shadow of her big brother, Bri, who disappeared in Afghanistan months earlier, leaving Sandee craving the same attention the whole town is giving him even as she wrestles with feelings of loss. When her high school drama department puts on the play Oklahoma!, she knows that now is her chance to step out and be noticed. What will she learn about herself as she reaches out to the world?
Targeted Age Group:: 13-18
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was inspired by my experiences as a high school drama teacher and these characters who first came to life in a series of articles for Dramatics Magazine. In addition I remember coming around to the back of the gym, where we did our performances, and seeing some kids from the orchestra slipping their beers behind their backs. One boy, whose Mom I knew, had a look of terror in his eyes that I've never forgotten.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Pretty much all of the students reminded me of people I taught. This was so long ago that the school had a smoking area. I know what you might be thinking. Sandee was originally a wannabe, Diego was originally a stoner, and each of the characters evolved into a 3-dimensional "person" as I worked with them.
THIS IS THE DAY that could change my life.
I’ve been living in the shadow of my big brother, Brian Mason,
all of my life, but in five more minutes, I’m going to audition for San
Ramos High’s spring production of Oklahoma! I’m reading for Ado
Annie, who sings and dances and flirts, but if I don’t get it, maybe I
can play Gertie or Ellen or somebody else with lines.
Across the room, the ugly Senior Sofa is crammed with drama’s
elite in skinny jeans and faux fur jackets. They’re hoping for leads too,
and they’re seniors. Where does that leave a sophomore like me? I
slide my hand into my backpack and pull out two red M&Ms. The
chocolate melts on my tongue and soothes my stomach.
Jenn McCall, the best singer in the sophomore class, slips in
next to me, drops her backpack on the floor, and says, “How’s your
The scrawny twit speaks. Truthfully, she has an angelic voice
inside her sexy body, but sometimes she acts like a diva. I’m about
to tell her my diet’s fine, but I never lie. Instead, I smile and say, “I
gave it up. I’m a girl, not a stick.”
“Okay, forget your figure. What’s the chocolate doing to your
vocal chords? You might as well wrap your instrument in cotton.”
OMG! That’s like hearing Bowen or some other teacher ask me
why I’m sabotaging my future. So here’s the whole truth: I eat when
I get nervous, and today I’m so nervous I grabbed a whole handful
of M&Ms without even thinking.
We take auditions seriously here at San Ramos High. Once you’re
in the cast, you’re part of the drama family. Our shows win awards.
That’s good for the college resume, but it goes deeper. We’re all a
part of one big show, and nobody ever treats a cast member like
somebody’s little sister.
Jenn leans over and whispers, “Want to warm up?” She’s probably
afraid to stretch alone. She cares what everyone thinks. I stopped
caring seven months ago. I was too busy fighting my fears.
Mr. Jackson, the music teacher, takes his place at the piano.
“On your feet, people,” he says. His sturdy, dark fingers pound out
the chords as we sing, “Mee may mi moe moo.” I can’t hear myself,
so I touch my vocal chords. They’re vibrating. My voice blends
in perfectly, and I know I fit in here. I smile at Jenn as we sing,
“Aluminum linoleum,” up and down the scales. Then Mr. Jackson
says, “They’re ready, Ms. G.” She’s our director.
“Thanks, Mr. Jackson,” she says like it’s any ordinary day. “We’ll
continue with solos for Ado Annie. Jenn McCall, you’re up.” Ms. G
taps her pen on her notepad the way she does when she’s waiting for
a scene to start in Beginning Drama.
Jenn wears a red skirt, a black turtleneck, and leather boots that
fit like gloves. She slinks up the stairs, smiles at Ms. G, and says,
Mr. Jackson pounds out the opening chords, and she sings, “I’m
just a girl who cain’t say no.” I don’t believe she means it, and that’s
pretty sad considering what a flirt she is.
“Nicole Lorca, you’re next,” Ms. G says after Jenn finishes the
Nicole sits next to the Senior Sofa, staring at the rings that
sparkle on her fingers. She’s new, I think, so when Jenn sits down I
ask, “Do you know her?”
“She was Rizzo in Grease last spring.”
“Rizzo had dark hair.”
“She wore a wig, Sandee. Don’t you know anything?”
“I know enough not to insult people when they make a mistake.”
From the back of the room, Ms. G says, “Sandee, you’re not
making a favorable impression.”
I clap my hand over my mouth and slowly turn. Her arms are
folded across her chest, and she’s giving me the same look she gives
the kids who mouth off in class. She says, “Nicole, would you start
Mr. Jackson plays the opening chords once more, and as Nicole
starts the song over, Jenn whispers, “Great. Like she needs a second
I don’t know what to say, so I reach into my backpack for another
Nicole’s lilting voice fills the rehearsal room. It sparkles like the
rings on her fingers.
My heart won’t stop fluttering. Calm down and focus, I tell
myself, just as Ms. G says the words that could change my life:
“Sandee Mason, you’re next.”
I race up the stairs with my blood pulsing in my ears. A voice that
sounds like my brother, Bri, whispers, “Go for it, Sandee.” I want to
turn around and look, but I know no one will be there.
Bri went missing in Afghanistan seven months ago.
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