A gifted young ballerina confronts her dark childhood after the violent culmination of an abusive relationship.
Preparing for the role of Odette in Swan Lake for Virginia’s Appalachian Conservatory Ballet is a joy for 17-year-old Savannah “Sparrow” Rose, until she becomes consumed with her boyfriend, Tristan. Her closest friends, including her dance partner, Lucas, remember him as a schoolyard bully and are concerned. Perhaps inevitably, their volatile romance, defined by Tristan’s jealousy, violent temper, and controlling ways, ends in tragedy: Tristan assaults Sparrow, putting her into a coma. Sparrow eventually awakens, and though her body is recovering, nightmares of her deceased mother still plague her, and she disengages from her family and friends. To truly heal, she must face both the dark legacy that her mentally ill and physically abusive mother left as well as how her well-meaning family’s failure to confront it shaped her life. Meanwhile, Lucas feels like he failed Sparrow and spirals into destructive acts. A three-month time jump soon after Sparrow begins dating Tristan slightly shortchanges character development, but Jackson, through Sparrow’s and Lucas’ dual narratives, ably explores Sparrow’s healing journey and its effects on those who love her without sugarcoating the path. All major characters are white, but Sparrow’s therapist is cued as black.
A heartbreaking yet hopeful debut. (Fiction. 13-18)