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I had never heard of Linas Alsenas before I picked up Beyond Clueless. Actually, I picked it up because it had the word clueless in the title and I was kind of hoping it was a sequel to the fantastic 1995 film (because its based on a play and this book has little theatre masks on the spine), but I was wrong. By the time I had read the dust-jacket though, I was intrigued and I had to read it. Apparently Alsenas has written some very well-known LGBTQA books, so this is simply another to be added to the list! I have to say, I really liked how everything was presented. I often avoid certain themes in books because authors spend exorbitant amounts of time pounding them into the reader. Romantic preference and body-type are, sadly, themes that fall into this hole fairly regularly. While this book definitely used the characters' romantic preferences as a central theme, it didn't allow them to overpower all of the other themes and ideas that were crucial to the story line. (round of applause for that!)
Although at one point there are a bunch of characters introduced rather vaguely and all at once, Alsenas does a phenomenal job in developing them each into unique people who remain easily identifiable throughout the story. I was worried that with a large cast of characters (They're putting on a play, so besides the main friends there's also a whole cast of people seen regularly) I would lose track of the story and who people were, but with the good character development I had no trouble. This story is richly woven with confusion and misdirection of the kind found in a Shakespeare play, which made it all the more entertaining when the characters stumbled across a new piece of information. Despite its shortness in length, Alsenas' book is so full of story that it took me much longer to read than I originally thought. I would definitely recommend it to teen readers, as well as anyone who enjoys a good high school story line.
Vinka Books Rating: 4 Stars
As a high school student, I found BEYOND CLUELESS to be a very relatable book. I easily identified with Marty’s relationship with her parents --- it can be difficult to deal with parents in a productive and kind manner. Marty does things that both help and harm her relationship with them, and I know that after reading BEYOND CLUELESS, I've gained new tools to take into my family life. Marty also deals with her friendships in a very mature manner. Even though she makes mistakes, she is very good at mending her friendships and restoring positivity in her life.
In addition, I really enjoyed reading about Marty's interest in her school musical. I don’t often find books about theater that I can understand, since I’m not experienced in that world. However, author Linas Alsenas managed to write a book that was both unique and understandable. He taught me the basics of musical theatre while entertaining me for over 200 pages.
Although BEYOND CLUELESS is written for young adult readers, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable with its word choice and topics until high school. Overall though, BEYOND CLUELESS is a fantastic novel and I really enjoyed reading it. I know that it has helped me reevaluate my interpersonal relationships and has given me new tools which I will implement in my life.
Reviewed by Aliza M.
Marty and Jimmy always thought they'd be best friends for life, but two recent events have strained their friendship. Marty's parents sent her to an all-girls school and Jimmy came out and started making new friends in the local gay community. Marty finds a way to bridge the old and the new by joining her school's performance of Into the Woods. Boys are needed for the musical, so some of Jimmy's friends can be in it and the rest can be crew. And Marty definitely thinks things are looking up when she's cast as Little Red Riding Hood against the very attractive Felix Peroni as the Wolf. (Clearly, she doesn't take that as a symbolic bad sign.)
I liked that both Marty and Jimmy made new friends once they were separated. Jimmy takes to it a little bit better, but Marty does find other girls she can hang with, especially Xiang. I also enjoyed Linas Alsenas explorations of her failures to be socially adept, such as when she ostracizes someone herself even though she didn't mean to be cruel. Her difficulties navigating what other people are feeling felt realistic. So did her trouble understanding and articulating her own feelings, especially when she got something she thought she wanted only to discover she wasn't feeling it at all.
I think BEYOND CLUELESS will appeal to young theater fans, especially since it doesn't ignore the importance of the crew. Jimmy's relatively easy coming out probably holds more appeal than more dated portrayals. Marty's difficulties with her relationship with Felix are handled well. Generally, I can't point to anything in BEYOND CLUELESS I didn't like. Remembering that I read it is the only problem.