Act One Jack and LouisaTitle: Jack & Louisa Act One
Author: Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead
ISBN: 9780448478395
Pages: 229 pages
Publisher/Date: Grosset & Dunlap, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, c2015.

”Listen,” I whispered. “As far as you are concerned, I’m not a Musical Theater anything. You saw how Tanner and those boys acted when they found out I was from New York. What do you think they’d do if they found out I took ballet every week?”
“My friend Jenny takes ballet!” Louisa chimed in.
“Good for her,” I replied. “I don’t do that anymore. For now I just need to keep quiet, go to class, remember where my locker is, and try not to get stuffed in one, okay?” (85)

Twelve-year-old Jack has just moved from New York to Shaker Heights, Ohio, and is attempting to blend in with the rest of the student population. But his neighbor Louisa knows his secret, that’s he’s acted in Broadway and got kicked off a debut show because his voice decided to change. Louisa disagrees with Jack’s decision to leave the theater completely, never to return. She’s going to make every effort to get him back on stage, starting with the community theater’s production of “Into the Woods”. If Jack is more interested in playing the role of a normal kid, Louisa might need some real stage magic to get him to cooperate. Or will her actions push him away for good?

I’m curious to see if this becomes a series, based on the Act One written on the cover. Especially since there is enough material to mine for future books, like if Jack brought Louisa to New York for a visit, or if a classmate competed against one of them and earned the part. Jack and Louisa are both much more grounded character as compared to Tim Federle’s Nate in Better Nate Than Ever, and readers will be sympathetic to his plight as a new kid searching for a new identity. Louisa is a hyper, peppy kid who has a few friends her age but isn’t afraid to be different and follow her passion, even if it’s not the popular thing. She isn’t a manic pixie though, and knows how to keep a secret and doesn’t make herself or Jack stand out unnecessarily. An initial reluctance in becoming friends and teasing from Louisa’s friend that Louisa likes Jack thankfully doesn’t turn into a romance, although I could see it happening if there are future installments. They are supportive of each other’s decisions, and having that friend to turn to at all times is important. There’s enough tension in the “will he or won’t he” dilemmas that Jack faces to keep readers engaged without the romantic angle. The pros and cons of small town Ohio and community theatre receive just as much attention as those involving New York and professional shows, and the knowledge and first-hand experience of the authors shows in the easy inclusion of facts about both. Into the Woods, the play of choice by the community theatre, was incorporated into the plot both on and off stage, and was a smart choice considering the recent movie and audiences probable familiarity with the story, but prior knowledge isn’t necessary to understand the book. Bravo.

Act Two Jack and LouisaEdit: Just before I posted this, I attended a publisher’s book preview and discovered that I was right, there is a sequel! Coming to a book store near you February 16, 2016. Does anyone have an advanced copy they want to lend me?