Olive and the Backstage Ghost by Michelle Schusterman (review)
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Reviewed by
Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Schusterman, Michelle Olive and the Backstage Ghost. Random House, 2017[224p]
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-399-55067-6 $19.99
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-399-55066-9 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-399-55068-3 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4–6

It’s not so much stage fright but mother fright that causes middle-schooler Olive to blunder her audition for theater camp. Running offstage and away from her actress mother’s exacting scrutiny, Olive finds herself wandering the city until she comes across a grand, gorgeous theater. She enters the open doors and upon seeing the magnificent auditorium, she breaks out into song, hearing clapping as she finishes; the applause comes from a glamorous woman named Maude, who then offers Olive the leading role in “Eidola,” an upcoming vaudeville show. Olive immediately accepts and over the next few weeks, rehearses nearly everyday. Her castmates are nice if a bit eccentric, but the magician’s assistant, Juliana, seems to be harboring some painful secret and Juliana’s brother Felix insists that neither she nor Olive are seeing the show for what it truly is. Olive’s an utterly sympathetic kid, withering under a mother who’s expecting way too much from her and flourishing under someone who believes she’s a star. Readers will cotton on to Maude’s true nature pretty soon (especially after she speaks about tragic fire in the theatre decades ago), so there’s little tension, but a heartbreaking and horrific twist comes with the revelation of Juliana’s secret. The ending is a bit of a letdown, with Olive joyfully reuniting with her mother after defeating ghostly Maude and her sinister monster, but Olive certainly deserves the loving attention after all she’s been through.

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