Magnolia has a chance to dance her way out of her small, coastal Oregon town and into stardom on a reality TV show called Live to Dance.
Magnolia, an 18-year-old with “perfectly pecan color” skin, needs to get away from the shaming she and her white half sister, Rose, face because of their absent mother’s actions. Many of Summerland’s residents steer clear of them, even while they’re digging clams to make ends meet. Magnolia’s audition takes her to LA, where she’s plunged into a diverse cast of hopeful teens, all under the scrutiny of judges who pick them off one by one. Like Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games, the contestants are prepped by stylists to reveal their individual back stories: “You look perfect,” Magnolia’s assures her. “Raw. Wearing your own sores.” TV and internet viewers watch clips of the dancers’ reactions to being on the show and the interactions among them, along with weekly dance performances. The fast-paced story moves away from the theme of Magnolia’s love of dance and into a soap opera laced with betrayal, breakups and hookups, friendships lost and gained. Life lessons abound, as Magnolia’s dance instructor’s encouragement to “dig deeper” is reflected in Magnolia’s clam digging as a metaphor for escaping the psychological distress that holds her back from her dreams.
A lively and absorbing story with all the drama of teen life. (Fiction. 12-15)