Books Featuring Thespians With Health Challenges
A lot of people use performing arts, such as theatre, as an outlet. It turns out that a lot of fictional characters do, too! Here is a list of books featuring thespians with health challenges:
1. “The Chance To Fly” by Ali Stroker
Thirteen-year-old Nat Beacon loves a lot of things: her dog Warbucks, her best friend Chloe, and competing on her wheelchair racing team, the Zoomers, to name a few. But there’s one thing she’s absolutely OBSESSED with: MUSICALS! From Hamilton to Les Mis, there’s not a cast album she hasn’t memorized and belted along to. She’s never actually been in a musical though, or even seen an actor who uses a wheelchair for mobility on stage. Would someone like Nat ever get cast? But when Nat’s family moves from California to New Jersey, Nat stumbles upon auditions for a kids’ production of Wicked, one of her favorite musicals ever! And she gets into the ensemble! The other cast members are super cool and inclusive (well, most of them)—especially Malik, the male lead and cutest boy Nat’s ever seen. But when things go awry a week before opening night, will Nat be able to cast her fears and insecurities aside and “Defy Gravity” in every sense of the song title?
2. “Cut Loose” by Ali Stroker
The showstopping sequel to “The Chance to Fly”, “Cut Loose!” by Tony Award–winner Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz is an uplifting story about embracing your strengths, standing out, and standing up for what you believe in. It’s the beginning of eighth grade, and Nat Beacon is nervous. Not only will she be the New Kid, but the New Kid in a Wheelchair. And the school year starts off No one seems friendly, and she can’t get to the cafeteria without help. But there are a few bright spots. Namely, her best friend, Hudson; her boyfriend (swoon!), Malik; and her very favorite theater. This year, there’s a middle school theater competition, and any production that wins their regional competition will get the chance to perform—on a real Broadway stage! Nat couldn’t be more excited. This is her chance to make it big and prove she belongs at her new school! She wows the director and gets cast in the school Footloose! But rehearsals are super stressful. Dance diva Skye wants more complex choreography, Malik keeps flaking for band practice, and Hudson gives Nat the cold shoulder, leaving Nat confused and alone. Nat starts to wonder whether she can really carry the show to Broadway and whether, without her friends, it’s worth doing theater at all.
3. “Fade To Us” by Julia Day
Fade To Us is a story about found families, the bond of sisterhood, and the agony and awe of first love. Brooke’s summer is going to be EPIC—having fun with her friends and a job that lets her buy a car. Then her new stepfather announces his daughter is moving in. Brooke has always longed for a sibling, so she’s excited about spending more time with her stepsister. But she worries, too. Natalie has Asperger’s—and Brooke’s not sure how to be the big sister that Natalie needs. After Natalie joins a musical theater program, Brooke sacrifices her job to volunteer for the backstage crew. She’s mostly there for Natalie, but Brooke soon discovers how much she enjoys being part of the show. Especially sweet is the chance to work closely with charming and fascinating Micah—the production’s stage manager. If only he wasn’t Natalie’s mentor… When summer comes to an end, will Brooke finally have the family she so desperately wants—and the love she’s only dreamed about?
4. “Short” by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she'll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn't ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. As Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive—one of the adults with dwarfism who've joined the production's motley crew of Munchkins—and with her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia's own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn't want to fade into the background and it's a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!
5. “Say It Out Loud” by Allison Varnes
Charlotte Andrews is perfectly fine being quiet—in fact, she prefers it. When she doesn’t speak, people can’t make fun of her stutter. But when she witnesses bullying on the school bus and doesn’t say anything, her silence comes between her and her best friend. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her parents signed her up for musical theater. Charlotte doesn’t want to speak onstage, but at least she doesn’t stutter when she sings. Then, just as she starts to find her voice, the arts program is cut. Charlotte can’t stay silent anymore. So she begins to write. Anonymous encouraging notes to her classmates. Letters to the school board to save the school musical. And an essay about the end of her best friendship—and her hope that she can still save it. Words could save Charlotte Andrews and everything she believes in… if she just believes in herself enough to speak up.
6. “Scars Like Wings” by Erin Stewart
Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn't need a mirror to know what she looks like—she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her. A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be "normal" again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends—no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever. But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn't have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn't afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she's going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.
📚 Happy reading! 🎭