On the surface , Sweet Dreams #119 – Star-Crossed Love looks like a pretty predictable package – with it’s allusions to Shakespeare in the title , and literal payoff in the plot – all the characters are vying for the lead roles in a high school production of Romeo and Juliet , the reader can even sit back and assume ( if she’s like me and has only skimmed the back blurb ) that the heroine will be the Juliet of her own story – well , yes and no. It’s not that predicable.
The trick is in the author’s main character Blair Young. She’s a teen so self-assured that she’s positive the role of Juliet is in the bag. Not only does she have the script down-pat , but figures she’s the best bet in her Drama club. As you can see she’s not quite, the shrinking-violet model that gazes impishly from the cover – she’s got a touch of brat in her. Kinda like her t.v. namesake – Blair , as in Facts of Life.
But then Blair doesn’t bag the role. Instead she’s cast as the nurse and made assistant director by the drama club’s well meaning Mr. Stanley who thinks Blair should broaden her interests , considering she’s one of the few students who has a genuine interest in the theater.
This twist is cleverly handled and set up – Because Blair is just too sure of herself or conceited – as Her eleven year old brother succinctly describes her, she needs a lesson in her reasoning skills, especially the screwed up vision she has for the experience. Which she sees not only as her chance to shine but as an opportunity to live out a wish fulfillment, to echo that of Juliet’s romance with Romeo – with her own ideal Romeo, a golden boy called Shane Lawson. With him cast as Romeo and her cast as Juliet – Blair believes, like the role, a star-crossed romance will be in the bag. However outgoing Charlie McGuire makes her nervous when he expresses an interest in trying out for Romeo -verifying that the lead role is not so much what Blair wants , it’s only part of her plot. The play just wouldn’t be the same with a red-headed Romeo or her romance ( however as she mentally slams Charlie’s representation of Romeo , she forgets how easily she dismissed her blonde hair and height as not being a ‘typical’ vision of Juliet. Nothing can hold her back.)
To keep Shane a shoo-in she coyly suggests that Mercutio is the better role for Charlie, but in her eagerness to show she knows her Shakespeare , Charlie returns the favor by suggesting she’s make a great assistant director putting the idea firmly in the teacher’s mind. Charlie is what is known in Sweet Dreams fic as the Other Boy. The Other Boy is never the best , most popular , better looking boy. He’s never the trophy player or has any status symbol giving him instant infamy – such as a black Porsche. He’s a Honda-type : chummy , dependable, overlooked. And I must say Charlie is one of the best Other Boy character’s I’ve come across , he’s sweet and patient and kindhearted without being naive. He knows Blair is not just after the part of Juliet but after her dream-cast Romeo – Shane. And has even agreed to sidestep being Romeo to become Mercutio not just out of his friendship for Shane but also probably to test Blair’s crush. As Blair reluctantly agrees to practice before auditions with Charlie , he reveals -“I know you’ve got a thing for him….That’s okay. All the girls like Shane. I’ve gone all through school with him , and it’s been going on for years.”
If you’re wondering if Charlie is too good to be true a moment of jealousy does eek out when Blair, lamenting her blonde hair : she doesn’t look the part , what will Romeo ( ahem Shane – she already believes it’s in the bag for Shane! ) think? Charlie replies oh , Shane hates blondes. He told me he thinks all blondes are pale and ugly. As Blair gasps. Charlie tells her to calm down he was only kidding. The joke seems ill-placed given that they are having a good time together and one wonders if Charlie can’t help but rattle Blair’s cage for being so stuck on Shane. Those damn dark haired jocks! He wants her to at least think for a moment Shane’s not as perfect as you imagine. Or maybe he’s preparing her for life without Shane a preview of the disastrous auditions.
Audition scenes are always a fun moment in teen fiction as they can basically go one of two routes – 1. the Good Audition or rather I-was-so good-the-others-didn’t-stand-a-chance which occurs in The Fabulous Five #10 Playing the Part. Beth Barry whips up a kooky look – a blonde wig and a sequin belt and coupled with her dynamite acting she lands the coveted role in Wakeman junior high’s teen version of Romeo and Juliet called Ronnie and Julie. Or 2. Anything that can go wrong will which occurs in Sleepover Friends #2 Starring Stephanie ( which doesn’t ! ) During practice outgoing Stephanie is a shoo-in for the class play ( thankfully not a Shakespeare production but a vintage old thing called the Lady in Blue complete with a cackling villain ) however when she’s paired with her class crush during the audition she can barely remember her first name while Patti who stuttered all through their practice is so distracted, due to sympathy for Stephanie, she lands the lead role opposite Stephanie’s crush!
In Star-Crossed Love – Blair’s audition goes the latter route – anything that can go wrong does , first off by having a surprise competitor for the coveted role who, to make Blair feel worse – looks the part of Juliet with her petite frame and long dark hair ( in Fab 5’s Playing the Part – Beth’s main competition Taffy Sinclair dropped out due to conflicting schedule’s making the audition even smoother! ) Margie is one of those Sweet Dreams Other Girls , a.k.a the villain or the heroine’s main competition ( not just on stage but off ) and unlike the Other Boy – the Other Girl is stocked with better this and better that. The only thing she doesn’t have is a better personality! She is however undoubtedly clever, so clever she wrangles Shane to play opposite her for her audition while Mr. Stanley asks Blair to play the nurse in the scene assuring her , Marge will do the same for her. However when the roles are switched – Marge offers Blair no help , reading the old nurses lines in her regular flat girlish voice. And to heap on the problems rather than pair Blair ( heh heh – pair Blair ) with Shane the teacher calls up a doofus-y boy called John to play opposite her in the balcony scene to whom she has to feed lines to! Naturally she’s a flop and when Charlie mistakenly comes up to congratulate her on a great audition she tells him oh shut up! declaring it was probably the worst Juliet audition in the history of the theater. Despite her melodrama he assures her she’d make a great nurse before knowing enough to cut out while the goings good. Blair doesn’t want to be the nurse! the nurse has no Romeo!
But Blair does get the part of the nurse and just as she’s about to rag about it remembers her best friend Frances wanted that part. But Frances is a rare Sweet Dreams bff , surprisingly sweet and un-annoying, she selflessly declares Blair to be the best one for the role and the parts should go to the people who played them best. That’s probably a little nudge in there for Blair not to be so hard on Margie.
Blair’s disappointment is somewhat tampered by Charlie. They have lunch together – and sorry to interrupt – but why does a boy’s lunch have to be the cliche of a jumbo meal? especially a jock – remember Emilio Estevez’s paper sack in The Breakfast Club? sandwiches were repeatedly pulled out like clowns exiting a clown car. Although the description’s not as huge as Blair might let the reader think – two bologna sandwiches , a huge piece of chocolate cake , two cartons of milk hardly a buffet , sounds reasonable. Anyway -Charlie is full of kind words – “When things didn’t go right for you, I felt terrible.” and “You’ve got the talent to pull off the nurse’s role.” It’s enough to make Blair blush and she’s glad that they’re becoming friends…. now if only she could get to know Shane better.
I’m going to jump ahead to one aspect of the end that kinda rang false to me ( not entirely false cause I’ve seen the same idea executed with less build up ) , it’s the revelation that Margie is not as bad as everyone thinks , it’s only jealousy that brought out the bad in her. Unfortunately for this to work you the author should’ve balance Margie out a bit , although Margie’s cattiness does verge on jealousy with her constantly referring to Blair as the Coach’s daughter , her list of mean deeds has no varying good deeds to justify the ending. She also slams Frances who is absolutely no threat to her. I don’t mind the lets-all-get-along twist ending but Margie simply reeks with a kindness that’s as subtle as a neon halo and it doesn’t quite add up not even hinging on the fact that she’s landed Shane , she apologizes to Blair , long before she gets Shane.
But it’s a moot point for a better-than-average Sweet Dreams.
Back to the story , I’m not crazy about sports themes ( that may have already come out in my reviews and descriptions of the series themselves ) so when Blair heads to the basketball game , I tried not to skim ahead. I’m not sure there’s anything quite worse than reading about sports plays , other than dance moves. Both are so spectator , that part of their novelty is the emotion created when cheering the players or dancers on and hearing the roar of the crowd or the music motivating them, something, even the most stellar of authors would have a hard time duplicating. Even so I have to admire the author for not creating a totally one note story with everyone wrapped up in the play. Shane and Charlie have other lives besides the drama club, and for once the Other Boy has been crowned best, though Shane is beautiful and popular , Charlie is the better player. A first!
Being the coach’s daughter has it’s bonuses as an otherwise unknown student offers Blair and Frances an invite to his party after the game. Now is her chance to cozy up with Shane , and they do manage a dance – though his beautiful smile has rendered her speechless and turned her mind to Jell-o which Margie frosts over with her chilling possessiveness – Shane is my date.
Blair thinks oh well it’s a start , forgetting that Charlie , The Other Boy was the better dancer. Hmm maybe my rule that the Other Boy is never the best is bunkum or maybe Charlie is just one of a kind. Well he is perhaps the only boy in the history of SD to bring a girl a wrapped box full of snails which were supposed to be leeches?!…..you’ll find out why soon enough.
As the play practices continue, Blair learns that Mr. Stanley had wished he could’ve cast Blair as Juliet but the audition hadn’t gone well and he didn’t want to be accused of favoritism. Blair is just glad to have heard it and says she believes he’s cast the show just right. Until the next practice when Margie attempts to trip her.
Fortunately Margie’s attitude is only serving to drive Shane closer to Blair. He walks her home disturbed by Margie’s harassment of her ( unlike Charlie , Shane is naive and can’t comprehend two girls fighting over him ) and stays for dinner. Shane is a rare Golden Boy – in most books the boy, the girl doesn’t pick, has a couple of annoying flaws – the number one being ego. But Shane is actually a very sweet , nice boy. So what is his problem , the one Charlie warned her about. Shane’s really quite young despite his beauty, he’s not ready for girls and never knows quite what he wants, which is why when he asks Blair to a Spring dance and she gets strep throat , rather than skip the dance and visit her , he allows himself to be dragged to the dance by Margie. So who does visit Blair? – one guess. You’re right! It’s Charlie. He brings her a new play to read – The Importance of Being Earnest and a box of snails which were supposed to be leeches to cure her strep throat. A gag ( pun intended ) gift. She laughs. Later that night she goes to sleep trying to picture Shane but darn that Other Boy Charlie keeps squeezing in….. I wonder why?
By now Blair’s had two disastrous dates with Shane- I forgot to mention the other one which was at another school dance. It seemed to be going okay till Margie struck , armed with a can of Coke. And while Blair fumed and mopped up her sweater in the bathroom , Margie dragged Shane off to dance. Rather than give Margie a taste of her own medicine – Shane is my date , she asks Charlie to take her home – but since he brought Frances and her date , she has to concede to going out for burgers with them and sort of enjoys herself.
Right now is where the book spins into almost a Twilight Zone episode , in which Blair could ask – am I still feverish? What’s going on? For she no longer feels all that jazzed to see Shane and rather than gloat , Margie appears as if she no longer claims ownership of him , she even inquires with concern about Blair’s health. By now if I was Blair I’d be worried…did she put something in my drink? , don’t let her near my lunch! Blair is baffled but is so grateful for the change that she thanks Margie for being so nice while Margie explains her awful behavior on the fact that she’d been chasing Shane forever and just when he started to respond , Blair moved to their school. But than Charlie has explained to her that being awful to Blair won’t get her what she wants. Aha Charlie again …I’m starting to think he wrote the book on bests , best friend , best player , best dancer… best fixer.
As the book is starting to come to a close and you can see it wrapping up nicely – Margie will get Shane which was before a rather grim fate for Shane, Blair is starting to recognize she’s got more in common with Charlie than she ever had with Shane it’s just too bad …that she couldn’t be the Juliet of her own story.
That’s the sound of Margie falling off the prop balcony and twisting her ankle.
That’s the sound of Blair getting her cake and eating it too. Even though Frances had been understudying the part of Juliet – everyone agrees that Blair would be best as Juliet and Frances will be the nurse. Meanwhile Margie is incredibly levelheaded about everything , not even slipping into a moment of brattiness when she learns a part she’s been working on for at least a month , is no longer hers. She gives it graciously over to Blair like a good sport. Cue the Twilight Zone music. Because this isn’t just a part and never has been – it’s Blair’s secret plot she’s Juliet , Shane’s Romeo and even Charlie’s a little confused that she doesn’t pounce on this opportunity – now that Margie’s out of the way. Instead Blair’s calling up Charlie to practice with but is still clinging to the idea of Shane ( Romeo ) which causes the smitten Charlie to force her to make a decision ( he no longer wants to play intermediator between her , Shane and Margie.) That scene includes an interesting little jewel within the story that is never quite revealed , merely hinted at , only Charlie knows if Shane really likes Blair, point blank he says he doesn’t know about Shane trailing off ( it’s in reference as to where Shane stands between Margie and Blair ) but Charlie’s reluctance is in fact partly selfish , if he reveals Shane likes Blair better , he’ll loose her. I think he kept quite to keep his options open. Making him a good guy , but not a saint!
After the play which was of course is a smashing success , highlighted by the fact that Margie bought Blair roses!? And Charlie swept up by the moment of congratulations – err opportunity – lands a kiss on Blair’s lips. Enough of a moment to weaken Blair’s knees and resolve. She breaks her date with Shane to go to the cast party , encouraging him to take Margie and coyly wrangles an invite from the patient Charlie.
Frances clasps her hands and declares I knew Charlie would win out eventually! So did we toots – but it was a nice ride.
The story ends on a romantic clinch ( finally! ) with Charlie and Blair , him declaring first – “I love you Blair.” so the final words can be – “I love you Charlie.”
Sweet and rather satisfying for a Sweet Dreams.
In fact I wished there had been a sequel – there was even a set up for it when Mr. Stanley told Blair he’d gotten a summer job at a local theater group and hoped Blair would join it. Though it would be a little unusual to begin a romance with two characters already in love they could’ve been the matchmakers for another couple. It might’ve been fun.
I was wondering what kind of 80’s stuff to link in the most obvious is the Shakespeare thing – it seems like any time there is a play in a high school romance – Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet is dragged up , Grease if it’s a musical. I think the best reference of the 80’s lightening the mood of Shakespeare was during a hilarious episode of Facts of Life in which the girls college professor turned a class discussion into a game of Family Feud! With squared off ‘families’ being the Capulet’s vs the Montague’s.
Other 80’s references were to clothes – purple paisley jeans! Which Blair gave to Frances who looked dynamite in them. I don’t rightly know who could possibly look great in paisley jeans but I decided to google them on a chance of seeing a pair and ran across these Sergio Valente jeans.
Not bad but a little like wallpaper.
Another tidbit was a reference to cuff bracelets those can be any wide bangle usually though they don’t make a complete ring.
Oh yes , then there’s Margie’s low-cut fuzzy sweater which makes Blair’s turtleneck seems overdone kinda like this sweater which reminds me of those vents on ocean liners in old Tweety Bird cartoons.
I decided to hunt up some fuzzy sweaters – for contrast – get aload of these lulus!
Maybe these caterpillars could spin themselves into a better top –
Is the Captain smiling because of those shoulder pads , or maybe she has a stray sock stuck by the horror of static cling , to her back?
A sweater that predicts the weather….
A Robert Palmer’s girl in casual mode.