Published by Candlewick Press on October 10, 2017
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Contemporary
Source: YA Books Central
Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.
Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.
Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality
Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Eli is Puerto Rican, Zara is culturally Jewish)
QUILTBAG: 5 (Eli is a lesbian, Zara is bi, and there are plenty of QUILTBAG side characters)
Much like we now own every rainbow in existence, queer people own the world of theater. We may not always be visible, but we’re definitely there. (I’m always in the audience. I may be ridiculously dramatic, but I can’t act in front of a crowd to save my life nor reliably work backstage.) If you’ve been waiting around for a theater book starring queer girls–because the gay guys who make up the G in QUILTBAG get almost all the queer rep–you’ve got that rep now in Echo After Echo and it is good.
Something tells me more than a few actresses could read this book and say afterwards “yep, some of this is 100% accurate.” Zara’s audition for the role of Echo in Echo and Ariston on Broadway sees her get the part regardless of her lack of experience and in the weeks leading up to her moving to New York City, she develops a close relationship with Leopold, the show’s director. I think you already know what kind of things he inflicts upon Zara, like propositioning her and trying to control her offstage and generally being a massive creep.
That is honestly just the start of how awful Leopold is as a person and how many lives he’s wrecked. Trust me, there’s a lot more. (Honestly, I did not plan to focus on this, but look at the entertainment industry’s wave of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault allegations against so many major players. Echo After Echo knew what was going on in Hollywood as well as on Broadway.)
But Zara and Eli, our two main characters, share the majority of third-person POV duties and their unfolding romance is the real focus of the story. Though Zara worries Leopold will find out when he explicitly told her not to get into a relationship because he thinks he has that right to dictate her love life, something else looms: the curse on the Aurelia, the theater where Echo and Ariston is performing.
Through stellar writing and an incredible sense of atmosphere, the Aurelia is practically a character itself whispering into Zara’s ear about what’s happened within its walls. For a century, every production there has been cursed with accidents and deaths. The curse, according to the rumors, always comes in threes and it always ends on opening night–and from the looks of it, the death of the lightning designer Roscoe is just the first curse incident out of three.
Though there’s no one living in or under the theater making these things happen, Echo After Echo has a very Phantom of the Opera feel to it as it builds up to the second strike–another death–and third strike of the curse. The strong characterization of Eli and Zara ups the tension as well, making you worried the third strike might fall upon one of them.
At 432 pages, Echo After Echo is a bit too long, however. There’s a significant lull in events during the book that may make you put it down for a while. Though I love when Ariston’s actor Adrian Ward gets POV sections that strengthen his characterization, he’s a minor player in the overall story. The climactic scene sees everyone of note involved somehow, but Adrian is the least involved of all. All he does there is give a letter from Zara to Eli! Though he’s characterized like a main character, he’s very nearly a bit player.
Echo After Echo is an intelligent, dark, and haunting book starring gay girls who get their happy ending, the wonderful and terrible world of theater, and the possibility of a curse. You shouldn’t need to hear anything more to convince you of this book! Skipping it means missing out on one of the most memorable, atmospheric settings of the year and so much more.
Also, Echo After Echo confirms that mediocre and highly predatory white men are a plague upon the arts and must be gotten rid of. I think we’re all in agreement on this thanks to Harvey Weinstein as well as everything and everyone that’s been exposed since him. My choices of who should be next: Mel Gibson, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski. THAT’S JUST THE APPETIZER IN OUR ENDLESS FEAST ON THESE MEDIOCRE, ABUSIVE MEN.