Jordan Sun must once again share the news with her mother when she's passed over for a role in the Kensington-Blaine school musical. Jordan is desperate to justify her enrollment in the prestigious East Coast performing arts boarding school clear across the country from her struggling parents. So when she asks her instructor for advice on how to improve, she's crestfallen to learn her Alto 2 voice isn't conducive to the female roles.

Discouraged and depressed, Jordan reads a school-wide e-mail announcing tryouts for the Sharpshooters, Kensington's elite, male, a cappella octet. Thinking she has nothing to lose and longing for the chance to be a part of something successful, Jordan reminds herself, "Risk [isn't] scary. Insignificance [is] terrifying." So she puts her theater training to work, dressing up as Julian Zhang to audition. To her great surprise, Julian receives a callback.

As Jordan juggles both identities, she feels herself changing. Hiding her secret weighs heavier each day, but she likes the self-confidence and freedom she experiences as a boy. She's even able to explore her sexual orientation, an element of herself she accepted based on expectations, not her personal feelings. Even more, she basks in the feeling of family among the Sharpshooters. But the more entrenched she becomes, the harder it is to maintain her deception.

Riley Redgate's (Seven Ways We Lie) second novel superbly probes identity, privilege and community in a humorous plot of high school growing pains. Like her visual arts students at Kensington, Redgate crafts her characters with delicate lines and strong shadows within a phase of life that is anything but gentle. Noteworthy is a five-star performance, deserving of a standing ovation. Encore! --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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