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Rival Hardcover – February 15, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“This quick paced and solid debut novel has all the drama of real high school. Think Glee, only with chamber music.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Wealer’s debut novel establishes realistic situations and dialogue, empathy for all sorts of teens, and challenging themes that command a reader’s thought and attention. These complex, interesting, believable protagonists will satisfy many readers who pick up the book expecting a lighter sort of musical read and instead find real substance.” (Booklist)

“Fast paced and readable. The frequent musical references give the story an original twist.” (School Library Journal)

“Wealer has done a wonderful job creating intensity in the characters. Rival will be gobbled up by teens who have enjoyed books such as Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars as well as teens looking for a fast-paced, action-filled story.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))

“Wealer has a talent for depicting the fragile moments on which friendships are made and broken.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A balanced, insightful picture of the ups and downs of a friendship undone by envy.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“Awesome, awesome, and more awesome. Not one wrong note.” (Lauren Myracle, New York Times bestselling author)

“This book gets it all exactly right—friendships, envy, and the fact that you can never truly know another person.” (Sara Zarr, National Book Award finalist)

About the Author

Sara Bennett Wealer grew up in Manhattan, Kansas (the "Little Apple"), where she sang with the show choir and wrote for her high school newspaper. She majored in voice at the University of Kansas before deciding she had no business trying to become an opera singer.

Sara now lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two daughters, and she still sings when her schedule allows.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; First Edition edition (February 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061827622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061827624
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,212,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bonnie Lynn Wagner on February 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
High school is where memories are made, be they good or bad. Whether you're popular or an outcast, you remember that time of your life. Sara Bennett Wealer's debut novel, Rival, recaptures high school through the eyes of two girls who couldn't be more different...or more alike. Kathryn and Brooke are two seniors competing for the same prestigious music scholarship. Kathryn is a soprano with a light, airy voice, while Brooke is an alto, her sound rich and deep. Brooke is rich and one of the most popular girls at school while Kathryn is poor and a social outcast. Their love of music should bring these two girls together in the ultimate friendship, but instead, they're bitter rivals.

The novel flips between "current day" (senior year) and flashbacks of junior year when everything went wrong. This isn't done in an annoying way, however. Each year is focused on from both points of view for quite a few chapters before flipping back again. Rival is so tightly written that readers want to know what happened junior year to make Kathryn and Brooke such bitter rivals. They keep alluding to something, so by the time you find out, you're just dying to know. Wealer did a spectacular job building suspense and keeping the story feeling natural.

Rivals focuses on relationships, but not the romantic kind. While there's a brush of romance thrown in, it's very blink-and-you-miss-it. While boy drama is involved, the male species is not the focal point of this novel: The relationship between the two rivals is. It's refreshing to read a book with this type of outlook. There's so much more to life than boys, but you'd never know it perusing today's YA market. Friendship and rivalry is very much a part of our daily life, especially in high school.
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No matter which side of the fence you're on, the grass always appears greener on the other side.

For Kathryn Pease, her one-time best friend Brooke Dempsey has everything. She's popular, confident and stylish. She has money. She lived in New York. She's been to the Met. She wouldn't be stuck in Minnesota after high school. For someone like Brooke there are endless possibilities. Brooke isn't hanging all her hopes on winning the Blackmore competition like she is.

For Brooke, Kathryn is the lucky one. She is beautiful and petite. Her voice is flawless. She has a father who loves her and a family who acts like a family should. She doesn't have two brothers who put her down. There is no way Kathryn could want out of Minnesota as badly as she does. And most of all she doesn't have to disguise who she is or justify her passion for music to anyone. Kathryn doesn't need to win the Blackmore competition like she does.

As these two former best-friends get ready for the biggest competition of their lives will they let their personal rivalry get in the way of their success?


Rival is a beautifully written, bittersweet story about two girls who are friends-turned-enemies, both with the same appreciation for and love of music, and each who envies something the other has.

Their friendship is doomed from the start as each girl, for very different reasons, cannot be honest with the other, which leads to some rather unfortunate misunderstandings and ultimately to its collapse.

Each chapter alternates between Brooke's and Kathryn's perspective and also between the present and the events that led up to the breakdown of their friendship. Readers get the opportunity to see both sides and may find that assigning blame isn't quite so easy.
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Beautifully written, Wealer has brought us a novel quite different from what's out there. The passion for the music is so amazing. Rival has brought me back to a time that I miss, a time that only the glory that music can bring.

Brooke Dempsey seems to have it easy. She seems to have it all. She has all the friends you can imagine. She has the looks, money, and any guy she wants. She also had the ability to bring down Kathryn and ruin her name throughout the school all because she has the power. And because she could.
But why did this happen?
They used to be best friends.
They both have killer amazing singing voices and are up against each other to receive a scholarship.
Kathryn needs that money. Why can't Brooke just leave her alone? What is she still hiding? Only time will tell.
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Rival was a book I was looking forward to months and months. And for some reason even once it was out, I didn't read it until now. What a stupid move. Rival was absolutely amazing in so many ways, and has made me very excited for whatever Sara Bennett Wealer comes up with next!

Rival is set up in a really neat way. First, there are the two main characters - Brooke and Kathryn. The story is told through alternating points of view with them. But the book also jumps back and forth from present (senior year) to the previous / junior year. It would be a nice chunk of the book in one year, then switch back to the other. I think it does that four times. It was really fun to read - I love alternating POVs and Wealer pulled it off very well. I would have to say I thought the Brooke chapters were more fun for me to read, as I thought her story was a bit more interesting.

I found the characters to be very relatable, particularly Brooke and Kathryn. I am a singer, so all the dramas they go through are all too familiar. I really liked Matt - I thought he was a great. guy and the perfect best friend :) My sole issue with Rival was Kathryn, and it was only in the last 1/4 of the book. She came off almost a bit self-centered, and I wasn't too crazy about that. She also made a few poor choices.

I really loved that Wealer finally wrote the music book I have been waiting for. It was a typical high school story, but that element of music being such a central point to the story was awesome. Drama in the music department is so much more than regular high school drama, so seeing that on the pages was really amusing to read about.

I would really recommend Rival. It is a really great read whose characters you will be sure to love and a plot you will absolutely enjoy. I cannot wait to see what Sara Bennett Wealer comes up with next.
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