August 6th, 2021 by Karen
It may be hard to believe, but school is already starting in some areas of the country. Where did the summer go?! Well, if you want to extend that seasonal feeling with one last summer story before heading back to class, look no further than The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz. The book is all about Nat’s first summer in New Jersey after being forced to move cross-country with her parents.
If you’ve ever left your best friend behind to start a new life in a new town, then you know that Nat is not super excited about the move. But she starts feeling hopeful when she learns about a local production of Wicked, her favorite musical of all time — and that’s really saying something because Nat is obsessed with musical theater.
Luckily, Nat finds out about the production right before auditions, which means that she can finally live out her dream of being in a musical! Well, that’s what she thinks. Unfortunately, Nat’s parents are not into it. Nat uses a wheelchair, so her parents are overprotective and they worry that she won’t be able to participate in the musical. Instead they encourage her to continue with wheelchair racing like she did back in California. But Nat decides to audition anyway (even though it means ditching her first practice with the racing team) — and she gets cast in the chorus!!!
Nat is overjoyed to be part of the show, and she’s even more thrilled when she becomes friends with other kids in the cast, especially the very cute and friendly and talented Malik(!). But her excitement starts to fade when the director tells her that she will be excluded from the dance numbers because of her wheelchair. Nat is determined to prove she shouldn’t be sidelined, but soon she and her new friends face another challenge: the entire production may be canceled! Now that she’s so close to her stage debut, can Nat find a way for the show to go on?
As a fan of musicals, I loved all of the book’s references to various Broadway shows — especially Nat’s punny username in the group chat: NatThrowinAwayMyShot! (Any other Hamilton fans out there?) Obviously, I highly recommend this book if you’re into musicals and you enjoy behind-the-scenes stories about theater productions, such as Better Nate Than Ever, the Jack & Louisa series, and Short. In other words, if you’re like me and your favorite awards show is The Tonys, then it’s a good bet you’ll like this book!
But I would actually suggest this book to everyone, even if you’re not a Broadway person. On the one hand, I think most readers will relate to Nat. Lots of us have experienced being the new kid, fighting with our parents about extracurricular activities, dealing with friend drama, and/or trying to figure out if our crush likes us back. I immediately recognized parts of my own life in Nat’s story, and I’m sure you will too. On the other hand, a lot of Nat’s life is affected by the fact she uses a wheelchair. It’s not just the situation with the Wicked director cutting her out of the dance numbers — Nat also has to deal with buildings and transportation that are not accessible, wishing she had more independence instead of relying on her parents and friends more than she’d like, not always being seen as a whole person, and sometimes even dismissing her own hopes and dreams as impossible. Of course, Nat doesn’t deserve to have more limited opportunities and experiences just because she uses a wheelchair. As someone who does not use a wheelchair, I was glad for the opportunity to learn more about Nat’s experiences and perspective. (In case you were wondering, author Ali Stroker uses a wheelchair and she made history as the first actress in a wheelchair to appear on Broadway!)
Speaking of the book’s authors… After you read The Chance to Fly, if you’re still looking for more summer stories, then you can check out the Camp Rolling Hills series by Stacy Davidowitz. Below is a book trailer where you can learn more — and you Broadway fans are going to love the video because it’s kind of like a mini musical!
Do you have a favorite musical or Broadway showtune? Please leave a comment and let me know!
Karen has indeed listened to the Hamilton cast recording a million gazillion times (to be exact), but that’s really just a recent favorite. Her lifelong favorite musical has always been Into the Woods!