Kind of a Big Deal, written by Shannon Hale, is a beautiful mess of a story about the intricacies of high school, and finding yourself through the power of stories. The protagonist, 18 year old Greek-American Josie Sergakis, had just fallen down from fame. In her words, "there’s nothing worse than peaking in high school." An aspiring Broadway singer, her choir teacher believed in her talent so much that he sent her to audition in big, bright New York. Unfortunately, her audition failed miserably, the judges dismissing her within the blink of an eye, leaving her alone, lost and with absolutely everything left behind. She decided to move to Missoula, Montana, and grabbed the first job opportunity she could get, babysitting 5 year old preschooler Mia, a superstitious, inquisitive toddler who develops a sisterly bond with Josie throughout the story.
One morning, while dropping her off to school, Mia forces Josie into a bookstore, with the superstition that it was unlucky to walk past a bookstore without stepping inside. Not the biggest fan of books, Josie reluctantly steps inside and meets Deo, the charming teenage owner who convinces her to pick up her first book in a long time, The Highwayman Came Riding.
But once she turns over the first few pages, she starts to get lost into them-literally! She finds herself as one of the characters, with snippets of her friends from past and present playing supporting roles, and she slowly starts to discover the beauty of books and immerses herself in them.
There is a huge variety of books that she finds herself into; romance, dystopian, horror even a graphic novel, and in each one she learns something, either about herself, or on how to grow from her situation, and even we can learn a lot from Josie’s internal adventures, as her situations and characteristics are very relatable.
Of course, it all seems too good to be true, and Josie starts to have increasing difficulty with getting out of the books to get back into her real life, and the line between fantasy and reality is rapidly thinning for her. Is she to continue living out her dream life, or stick to the reality everyone is accustomed to?
I enjoyed reading about all the characters, with their quirks and delicate personalities that make you remember them for a long time. For example, the contrast between younger 8 year old Josie, broken from her family issues, and the wall or persona she built around herself that seemed to make her look more mature, broke at times, and is a very intriguing sub-plot that readers will definitely want to savor. Her love for singing also shines through in a lot of humorous ways, as she breaks into a medley of "Wannabe" while destroying zombloids with her magenta-coloured powers in a post-apocalyptic zombie world.
I can also relate to the protagonist in a lot of ways, specifically the love she starts to develop for reading. For me, it feels like I am doing the reading process all over again, but now along with someone else!
This book has a little bit of something for all kinds of readers, romance, mystery, fantasy, action, even comedy at some parts, but I am sure you will feel as though you lived inside a lifetime of books from the second you open this one!
Kind of a Big Deal by Shannon Hale. Roaring Brook Press, 2020. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!