Two teenage girls fight for their dreams and their sanity in this intense novel about the pressures society places on women to be perfect.
Dawn, a 17-year-old white girl, copes with mysterious fugue states while enrolled in a prestigious online school program that guarantees her a spot in next year’s Stanford freshman class; her former best friend Jessie, also white, dances in an elite Portland, Oregon, ballet school from which only two students will be selected to join the company. Unraveling the mystery behind the girls’ broken friendship is part of the novel's driving force. Keyser uses animal imagery in both protagonists’ alternating narratives to focus attention on the ways that society simultaneously exalts and denigrates women's bodies. The girls’ hypervisibility and physical vulnerability are omnipresent, from the street-level windows through which male passers-by lasciviously watch the ballerinas perform to the impersonal manner in which doctors discuss Dawn’s body in an effort to diagnose her. The narrative is appropriately dark, but the intensity of the physical imagery that juxtaposes human desire for control and animal primitiveness occasionally feels forced rather than the organic product of teenage thought and situations. The short, clipped sentence structure occasionally makes the girls sound too similar despite their differing personalities.
A novel that despite its flaws viscerally evokes struggles of modern teenagers in a brutally authentic manner. (Fiction. 14-18)