Playing a Part

Daria Wilke, trans. from the Russian by Marian Schwartz. Scholastic/Levine, $18.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-545-72607-8
Given the relative rarity of English translations of international YA fiction, first-time author Wilke’s coming-of-age story is a bold and welcome addition. Grisha is a Moscow teen who attends high school by day and volunteers at a puppet theater by night. The novel confronts Russian homophobia (and made headlines when it was originally published amid the enactment of laws forbidding the distribution of gay “propaganda” to minors), particularly through Grisha’s encounters with bullies at school; Grisha’s unwillingness to kiss a girl on a dare and his involvement with the theater are enough for the students to tease him, believing he is gay. Grisha’s grandfather also figures importantly as Grisha grapples with his sexuality: “When I’m next to him, I always feel like something’s wrong with me. That I’m worse than I really am.” His uncertainty about his feelings for an actor named Sam unfold gradually, with Wilke allowing space for Grisha to better understand himself. Grisha’s voice is authentic and soulful, and his descriptions of the vibrant world of the puppet theater, his refuge, are sumptuous. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/26/2015
Release date: 03/31/2015
Ebook - 176 pages - 978-0-545-72608-5
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