In the comic young-adult novel "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" (1999) by Dyan Sheldon, a girl who is certain that she is the center of her little NYC universe gets a rude awakening when her mom moves them to the suburbs of New Jersey. Lola, as she decides she should be called, thinks she is pretty unusual and does not mind bending the truth to suit her reality.
Mary Elizabeth Cep (please call her "Lola") is pretty sure she deserves to be in the spotlight, like, every second of the day -- but nobody told New Jersey. When a family move forces her out of her native habitat -- New York City -- Lola is out of her league. By naturally gravitating to the drama club, she unknowingly upsets the social order of high school, displacing Carla Santini by winning the role of Eliza Dolittle in the school play. Let the retaliation begin. First Carla, the new school's girl with the most mosts, convinces practically everyone to give Lola the silent treatment. Then she ups the ante by buying up every single last ticket to THE concert -- the one for which Lola might even have been willing to give up the spotlight. But what glory is there in defeat? No tickets, no money, no dress, no permission from Mom to cross the Hudson River? No problem. That's why drama queens invented "lying." Meanwhile, Lola has made one friend who will stand by her -- even if that means drunken rock stars, sleazy slumming in the 'hood and a run-in with the police. Is the state of New Jersey big enough for all of this drama?
Dyan Sheldon, author of "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," says she got the idea for this book from her daughter, who was complaining about her teenage sister. It was the daughter who came up with the title, Sheldon says, calling it "one of the best titles ever." The result is not about the daughter or the sister, Sheldon admits, but it does draw on the author's own high school experiences and her best friend. Sheldon lived in Brooklyn until her parents moved the family to Long Island, and she now lives in London, so there's a bit of culture shock built in there, too.
The themes in "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" revolve around self-confidence, acceptance, friendship and loyalty. The lessons about the importance of telling the truth don't work too well because Lola generally gets away with her lies without too much damage, while Carla seems undone by hers -- the deserved fate of a delicious storybook villain. Although the conflict between Carla and Lola fuels the plot, it's Lola's inner conflict -- the need to embellish on her own truths -- that is at the core of her character's journey. When Lola gets the (literal) spotlight, the revenge, the glory and the guy, you hope she has learned her lesson -- that people will like her if she will just be herself.
From the Critics
"Booklist" gave "Confessions of a High School Drama Queen" a starred review and said, "High school has always been this stressful but rarely this hilarious." "Publisher's Weekly" praised the author, saying, "Dyan Sheldon pulls off a hilarious comedy of errors." "School Library Journal" called the story "offbeat, outrageous and utterly charming," and the "Liverpool Echo" called it "a fun read." The folks at Walt Disney Pictures liked the book enough to base a movie on it; that movie of the same name starred Lindsay Lohan and came out in 2004.
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