Amelia Wilkes and Anthony Winter have big dreams. The two met and fell hopelessly in love during a school theater production of As You Like It, and they hope to keep their dreams of stardom alive on Broadway. As high school seniors, they've made plans to combine an upcoming drama club field trip to New York City with in-person auditions at NYU's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. They'll get an apartment somewhere and live together, their love for each other and their passion for the theater overcoming any obstacles along the way.
Anthony has the full backing of his single mom, who's also a teacher at the private school Amelia and Anthony (on scholarship) attend. For Amelia, it's a different story. She's applied to NYU on the sly, since her wealthy, conventional parents find it hard to imagine her going anywhere but Duke. Ditto her relationship with Anthony. Most kids at school don't even know the two are dating, let alone Amelia's parents, who would be horrified to learn that she's in love with someone outside the country club set.
So imagine Amelia's dad's shock when, while creeping around on her computer, he comes across naked photos of this boy he's never seen before. When he confronts Amelia, she is horrified and embarrassed, and allows him to believe, for a while anyway, that the pictures had been e-mailed to her without her knowledge or consent. In reality, they were taken at Amelia's request. It's unclear, though, whether having this knowledge would soothe or exacerbate her father's anger.
Upset, it seems, as much by his precious daughter's lack of innocence as by the content of the photos, Amelia's father heads out on the rampage, calling 911 and the school principal, withdrawing Amelia from school, determined to keep her away from Anthony as long as possible. But what will happen after the police seize Anthony's computer, which contains nude photos of Amelia? Will her father still think she's innocent then? And --- more importantly to Anthony and Amelia --- what will happen to their Broadway dreams?
Some parts of Therese Fowler's novel may seem far-fetched --- the father's interest in his daughter's computer files that goes far beyond mere curiosity, for example --- until readers get to the author's note at the back of the book and discover that a very similar situation happened to Fowler's own teenage son. Scandals involving "sexting" have rocked school districts around the country, and as extreme as it is, Amelia and Anthony's story is one that could (and probably does) play out in countless households and schools every day. Fowler's prose can seem a little overwrought at times --- perhaps echoing her thwarted young lovers' Shakespearean sensibilities --- but readers who enjoy the topical fiction of authors like Jodi Picoult will certainly appreciate Fowler's interest in grappling with the complexities of this new phenomenon.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on May 3, 2011