A contemporary “clean teen” coming-of-age story about a small-town girl who opens her eyes to life’s endless possibilities
When Penny wins a scholarship to a prestigious theater camp, she thinks it’s the start of a perfect summer. But when she arrives at camp, Penny is thrust into a world of competition and self-doubt. And as she meets new friends, including Chase, a talented young actor with big-city dreams, she begins to realize that her own dreams may be bigger than she ever imagined.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes
Author Interview (2015)
Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. Life in small-town Florida holds few surprises for Penny. She has the steady company of her best friend, the reliable affection of her boyfriend, and a place to work at her dad’s restaurant. It seems a fluke when she’s chosen for an exclusive theater camp, since Penny adores acting but has little onstage experience. But Penny flourishes. She catches the attention of handsome, worldly Chase, who encourages her to take risks as an actor and exposes her to new experiences. Consequently, Penny dares to wonder if her future might extend beyond the familiar faces and places of her little town. The depiction of Penny’s hometown life realistically mixes the comfort of dependable friendships with the disappointment of limited opportunities. In contrast, Penny’s experiences at camp constantly challenge her to take risks with her artistic expression and in her social life. Theater buffs will enjoy the descriptions of Penny’s acting classes and her audition scenes. The focus on self-discovery makes this a worthy recommendation for fans of Sarah Dessen’s The Moon and More (2013).
Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2017)
A summer theater program changes Penny’s expectations for life after high school.Penny’s grown up in a tiny Florida town, embracing a future that everyone assumes will include inheriting her family’s diner and marrying her high school sweetheart, Logan. Attending a summer theater camp, on scholarship, before her senior year feels more like self-indulgence than career preparation. However, several of Penny’s pre-camp reflections already foreshadow changes on the horizon. First she describes a companionable silence with Logan as “mostly” comfortable and then moments later boldly concludes that her friendships will never change because “we have it all planned out—our futures here. Together.” So it’s not entirely surprising when her more-cosmopolitan theater friends’ dreams of acting in the big cities make Penny’s pre-determined small-town future begin to feel dull. Nevertheless, Penny’s wracked with guilt about viewing the family’s legacy as a burden, and bridging the gulf between Penny’s and Logan’s future expectations bids to be a difficult—and unresolved—feat. Gibaldi sensitively develops Penny’s desire for both independence and the safety net of Logan’s love, although secondary storylines—especially Penny’s father’s new romance—occasionally feel underdeveloped. Penny is depicted on the cover as white, and the lack of racial markers points to a mostly white cast. Penny’s conflict about her future is believable, and readers facing similar choices should find much that is recognizable. (Fiction. 12-18)
About the Author
Lauren Gibaldi is a public librarian who’s been, among other things, a magazine editor, high school English teacher, bookseller, and circus aerialist (seriously). She has a BA in Literature and Master’s in Library and Information Studies.
She lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband and daughter. Her website is laurengibaldi.com.
Around the Web
This Tiny Perfect World on Amazon
This Tiny Perfect World on Goodreads
This Tiny Perfect World Publisher Page