ARC Review: As If On Cue by Marisa Kanter

  • Title: As if On Cue
  • Author: Marisa Kanter
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young
  • Release Date: 9/21/21
  • Genre: Romance
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Publisher’s Summary: A pair of fierce foes are forced to work together to save the arts at their school in this swoony YA enemies-to-lovers romance that fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson are sure to adore. 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…

Very quickly after I started As if On Cue, I realized that this book was practically written for me. I mean, a book set in the Boston area (where I lived for years) with a Jewish main character who writes a musical inspired by Frozen? I immediately fell in love with Natalie Jacobson (and this book).

I really enjoy the way that Kanter develops Reid and Natalie’s relationship. Not only does the reader understand the current tensions in their relationship (band, Reid’s relationship with Natalie’s dad), but Kanter also gives the reader flashbacks that give insight to the start of their prank war. The reader learns about pranks that caused injury, Natalie’s decision to stop playing the clarinet, and Natalie losing her best friend over Reid. These details flesh out their relationship and make the reader feel invested as they watch Natalie and Reid go from enemies to friends to romantic partners.

As a major fan of Frozen, I absolutely loved that Natalie writes a Frozen “opposite play” called Melted that addresses the climate crisis. Some of the songs include “Keep It In,” “In Winter,” and “Hate is a Closed Window.” I laughed out loud as the song titles were revealed. I also respected the passion, drive, and creativity of the students working on the show. High school arts programs are so important, and Kanter addresses why with this story.

I also loved that Natalie’s Judaism played such a central role in this story. Not only is Natalie’s sister’s Bat Mitzvah a central plot point, but As if On Cue also mentions Yom Kippur break the fasts and includes latke topping debates. These little details made me feel very represented.

We also live in a world where anti-semitic hate crimes are on the rise, I found As if On Cue’s discussion of anti-semitism to be so important and poignant. Toby, one of the actors in Melted, casually refers to Natalie as a Nazi. Natalie, as a Jewish teen, is immediately upset by this.

It’s another casual Nazi reference in colloquial conversation, like words don’t matter. Nothing new in America, a country that has, you know, actual Nazis. I hate it. When you’re a Jewish person in America, when you have a name that identifies you as such, you listen to a lot of ignorant, triggering bullshit that no one even thinks twice about. I cringe every time a Twitter mutual refers to themselves as a grammar Nazi. No. Killing a comma does not equate to fascism and genocide.

I cried when I read those words because they rang so true to my experience. Not only that, but these words serve as an important reminder that we, in American society, normalize micro-agressions against minority groups and that we need to stop doing that. Reid serves as an excellent example when he stands up and calls Toby out for his behavior.

I am enamored with the world of As if On Cue, and I look forward to reading it many more times.

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