Disclosure: I received a review copy of Your Dream for Me from the book publicist in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Your Dream for Me by Alison Schaffir • contains 244 pages • published March 9, 2023 by Level Best Books • classified as Contemporary, Young Adult • obtained through publicist • read as eARC • shelve on The StoryGraph
Unlike her theatrically-gifted parents, seventeen-year-old Scarlett doesn’t like spending time in the spotlight. With dreams of becoming a fashion designer, she sneaks into her school's costume shop, where she comes face-to-face with Nathaniel, a talented theater student who piques a new interest. With fashion still her main priority, Scarlett vows to make a dress for her best friend, Macie. After all, she needs a strong portfolio of work to get into the Fashion Institute of Technology. The one problem? She has no idea how to operate a sewing machine.
With Nathaniel's encouragement, Scarlett decides to shadow the school's drama teacher to practice her skills, hoping to fuse her passion for fashion with theater... and be closer to Nathaniel. But then a distressing event involving Macie shakes everyone in Scarlett's world—causing their friendship to falter and Nathaniel to pull away. With high school drama threatening the rest of the year, including a rival who wants to ruin her reputation, Scarlett must rely on herself and newfound sewing skills to keep her fashion dreams—and her most important relationships—from unraveling.
Your Dream for Me is such a sweet book, delivering on the promise of a lighthearted read that I had going into it. The characters grew on me with each passing chapter. I appreciated the healthy relationship Scarlett has with her parents. They are so supportive of her and her dreams, while also setting important boundaries. Of course, Scarlett occasionally tries to bend their rules but she also has to bear the consequences. That is a refreshing aspect given that Your Dream for Me is a YA contemporary book.
Speaking of YA, Scarlett’s voice comes across as a little younger than I expected. The setting is high school junior year. Scarlett is 17. Yet, the writing style seems a little more suited for 15-year-olds. That’s not too far off the mark but confused me. Arguably, Your Dream for Me could be an entertaining means to prepare sophomores for junior and maybe senior year. Still, I found it a bit jarring that as the narrator, Scarlett spends a lot of time spelling out her thoughts and interpretations of situations. On the proverbial scale of “show, don’t tell” Your Dream for Me leans heavily towards “tell.” Perhaps presenting the story as a collection of diary entries would have worked better.
In any case, the thematic explorations are strong. Schaffir built on the themes of friendship, family, ambition and romance. These brought me back to my high school years. Reflecting on where I was at 17, I had no idea what I wanted to become. I wondered what it was like for those who knew what they wanted to do when they grew up. Scarlett gave me an insight I wish I’d had back then.
At the same time, Your Dream for Me brought me back to my theatre days. I think it’s great that acting isn’t Scarlett’s goal. Instead, she wants to design clothes, in line with her ambitions to break into the fashion industry when she is older. I loved that because the non-acting parts of theatre haven’t factored in other theatre-focussed novels I’ve read, even though they are important. Be it ushering, set design, sound or tech, they all contribute to the experience. Your Dream for Me captures that.
Even though Your Dream for Me is on the shorter side, the stakes of conflict pack a punch. They drew me in, and I wanted to know how things would be resolved, if at all. I found myself smiling, getting angry, feeling relieved, which for me means I was invested, especially because I enjoyed getting to know Macie, Scarlett’s best friend, and their relationship is a huge driver of the plot. I do wish there was more character development for the swim team but with the length of the book, I am satisfied with what Your Dream for Me entails.