As If On Cue

  • Review
By – March 3, 2022

School bud­get cuts often focus on reduc­ing the size and scope of school arts pro­grams – a hot­ly con­test­ed and high­ly emo­tion­al issue with­in local com­mu­ni­ties. Marisa Kan­ter’s new nov­el makes a com­pelling case for schools to pri­or­i­tize arts edu­ca­tion, includ­ing arts extracur­ric­u­lars, using cre­ativ­i­ty and inge­nu­ity to com­pen­sate for the some­times-unavail­able funds.

Pro­tag­o­nist Natal­ie is sure her future lies out­side the realm of the arts; her father is a high school music teacher and orches­tra direc­tor, her moth­er is a suc­cess­ful nov­el­ist who is now fac­ing a bout of writ­ers’ block, and Natal­ie her­self has quite a lot of tal­ent in both music and writ­ing but also sees that fam­i­ly finances can be dif­fi­cult with­out more lucra­tive and high­er pro­file careers. So, she has con­vinced her­self that she has no inter­est in fol­low­ing her par­ents’ sat­is­fy­ing, but finan­cial­ly chal­leng­ing, foot­steps. That is, until she learns that her beloved dra­ma club and many of the oth­er clubs in her school are not being renewed for bud­getary rea­sons. Natal­ie and her friends, a diverse, high­ly cre­ative, ded­i­cat­ed group of high school juniors and seniors, know that they need to take steps to prove to the school board that music, dra­ma, and visu­al arts are vital­ly impor­tant to a round­ed education.

Com­pli­cat­ing Natal­ie’s mis­sion to pre­serve the arts is a deep-root­ed rival­ry with a class­mate, who is also her father’s star music pupil. Natal­ie and Reid have been engaged for years in a prank war, which often esca­lates fur­ther than either one means it to go. The two are also poten­tial love inter­ests, although nei­ther will admit to the possibility.

As If on Cue has an engag­ing plot, appeal­ing char­ac­ters, wit­ty dia­logue, ongo­ing sus­pense, real­is­tic Jew­ish con­tent, and a theme wor­thy of note. Read­ers who admire the arts and have a healthy respect for com­mu­ni­ty activism will enjoy this thought-pro­vok­ing and often-fun­ny sto­ry about teens find­ing their ways in a com­pli­cat­ed world while deep­en­ing their under­stand­ing of life and main­tain­ing their val­ues. And a good, sol­id prank war – that is always thor­ough­ly irresistible!

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions