The Art of Escaping
Seventeen-year-old Mattie has a hidden obsession: escapology. Emphasis on hidden. If anyone from school finds out, she'll be abandoned to her haters. Facing a long and lonely summer, Mattie finally seeks out Miyu, the reclusive daughter of a world-renowned escape artist. Following in Houdini's footsteps, Miyu helps Mattie secretly transform herself into an escapologist and performance artist.
When Will, a popular athlete from school, discovers Mattie's act at an underground venue, Mattie fears her secret persona will be exposed. Instead of outing her, though, Will tells Mattie a secret not even his girlfriend knows. Through a blossoming friendship, the two must find a way to express their authentic selves.
Told through the perspectives of the witty main characters, this funny and fresh debut explores the power of stage personas and secret spaces, and speaks to the uncanny ways in which friendships transform us.
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About the Author
Once upon a time, she was a lawyer but found herself unemployed at the height of the recession. For her own sanity she started writing, and to make ends meet she took a job at a residential program for teens. The kids she met there will forever serve as a well of inspiration for the contemporary YA she writes.
"Seventeen-year-old Mattie's fascination with escape artists like Harry Houdini and Dorothy Dietrich leads her to give escapology a try--in secret, of course. This is how she ends up at the doorstep of Miyu--a prickly agoraphobe and the only daughter of famed escapologist Akiko Miyake. Miyu reluctantly agrees to mentor Mattie, and before the summer's out, this snarky teen wallflower is transformed into Ginger, an underground performer who can pick locks and escape a straitjacket--while submerged in an aquarium. Mattie's performances are compellingly raw and imperfect, and her nervousness is palpable. When she spots popular classmate Will in the audience one night, she panics he'll spill her secret. Instead, he shares one of his own with her, and they become friends, bonding over their double lives (Will is gay but closeted) and a shared love of 1920s jazz. Mattie and Will both narrate chapters, and interspersed excerpts from Akiko's diary further enhance the story. This debut novel of friendship and personal liberation rings true and dares to look danger in the face and smile."--Booklist
"Mattie has a few obsessions--jazz records, Star Trek, vintage dresses--but not even her best friend, Stella, knows about the one that propels her to the home of Miyu Miyake: her desire to learn how to pick locks and escape from straitjackets. Escapology legend Akiko Miyake came from Japan, settling in Rhode Island before she died in a plane crash, leaving her tools and methods with her daughter. Miyu is a gruff 30-something who would much prefer to be secluded in her crumbling home than train the relentlessly persistent white teenager who turns up uninvited. Mattie keeps meeting the outrageous demands of her curmudgeonly mentor, including being pushed from her private comfort zone into public performance the summer before senior year. Will, a white basketball player with a secret, finds himself pulled into Mattie's orbit. A seemingly mismatched friendship develops between the two, and within their growing trust, they find the space to express their genuine selves. Stella, who is white, returns from a prestigious academic summer program to discover, and fully embrace, this radically bold version of Mattie. She ushers 14-year-old Azorean-American boy genius Frankie Campos into the mix, and the four become an inseparable crew, offering each other the space they need to be their overachieving, weird, or queer true selves. An exciting and nuanced portrayal of the terror of vulnerability and the exalted freedom of authenticity."--Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
When 17-year-old Mattie's best friend heads to boarding school for the summer, and others are padding their resumes and touring colleges, Mattie stays in her Rhode Island hometown to dive headlong into her studies with Miyu, the cranky daughter of famous Japanese escape artist Akiko, who died suddenly in a plane crash. Picking locks and undoing straitjackets is empowering for Mattie, but she feels the need to closely guard her fixation: "My thing was weird. Dangerous. My thing required an explanation." Sections narrated in Mattie's amusingly self-aware, exuberant voice are interspersed with Akiko's diary entries. Callahan's first novel explores the impact of leading a double life and risking discovery at every turn. Through a tough-minded heroine, Callahan urges readers to think independently, take risks, and embrace their interests.--Publisher's Weekly