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Shannon in the Spotlight by Kalena Miller 

A sensitive portrayal of a young girl’s struggle with OCD and the changing relationship with her best friend. 

It was supposed to be a stellar summer for 12-year-old Shannon Carter and her two best friends, Elise and Fatima. Sure, Shannon’s sessions with her therapist, Ariel, were still ongoing and focused on controlling her anxiety, the increase in her compulsive habits, and obsession with getting dirty, symptoms of her diagnosis of OCD. But it was time for the local community theater’s summer musical! 

Like every summer since they were old enough to participate, the girls were looking forward to working on the local summer musical at the Rosewood Youth Community Theater. This year’s production was The Sound of Music, the girls’ favorite, and Elise had her heart set on winning the role of Brigitta, one of the Von Trapp children. Fatima preferred to work backstage on set-building, props, and costumes, a true theater techie. On the other hand, Shannon just wanted to be with her friends and usually found herself assigned tasks involving glue or working in the concession stand when the show opened. So, things got weird when the musical’s director overheard Shannon singing with some of the other kids and insisted she auditions as well. But while her performance is spectacular, Elise bombs, and suddenly Shannon’s friend starts acting strangely toward her. And their friendship faces a real test when the cast list comes out. 

Shannon in the Spotlight is a new middle-grade novel by author Kalena Miller, and it features a tween struggling with OCD, friendship dramas, and a home life that suddenly feels out of control when her grandmother moves in with her and her mother. The main character, 12-year-old Shannon Carter, has enough on her plate with a sudden increase in the repetitive behaviors symptomatic of her OCD, such as washing her hands and reapplying Chapstick constantly throughout her waking hours. Her anticipation of the wonderful summer ahead, spending time with her two besties on the summer musical, is almost palpable. And her distress and disappointment over how things pan out even more so. The hurt she experiences over Elise’s actions is gut-wrenching, and the girls’ resolution of their troubles is quite emotional. Shannon is one gutsy kid. 

The setting within a community theater production of The Sound of Music was fun and full of little bits of theater business and traditions. That world can be all-consuming to its participants, so Elise’s devastation over her audition and subsequent casting as Louisa rather than the prime role of Brigitta was realistic. She’s also twelve and doesn’t handle her disappointment or jealousy over her friend’s good fortune very well. I loved how Grandma Ruby slowly inserted her way into the production and how she and Shannon were able to build a relationship with each other that was separate from the fallout of the rift she had with her own daughter. I also loved the close relationship Shannon shared with her mother. 

With its sympathetic and engaging main character, the sensitive portrayal of her struggle with OCD and the changing relationship with her best friend, and the competitive, yet ultimately cooperative, community theater setting, I recommend SHANNON IN THE SPOTLIGHT to middle-grade readers, especially those looking for OCD representation in fiction. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond Book Tours.

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