This verse novel debut follows a reticent Vermont girl through a scholarship-funded year at the elite Jersey Ballet school.
Sara’s always been the best dancer in the neighborhood teacher’s basement classes. The summer before junior year, she leaves Darby Station’s orchards and woodstoves behind. Adjusting to New Jersey is difficult; she’s older than the other dancers at her level and feels “like a hick.” She’s terribly lonely and shy, her voice “[a]n unflexed muscle.” Despite first-person narration, Sara’s withdrawn personality keeps her at bay from readers as well as characters. There’s little joy in her ballet-skill improvement or going to bed with her object of desire. Sara’s 16, and Remington is “God, maybe twenty-two” (an unsettling double meaning). She stretches naked in his apartment and becomes his choreography muse, but he casts other ballerinas—not her—to dance those roles in public. Sara tires of “endless auditions, eternal scrutiny” and “giving pieces of my body away.” As she finds agency, she offers conclusions that seem oversimplified given earlier ambivalence: that ballet was only ever “a dream others dreamed for her,” that sex was solely “a price to be paid / For company,” “in hopes / Of feeling my worth.” Her attitude about food, moreover, is an inconsistent point in the writing.
No romance here, but copious ballet details and hard-won steps toward independence. (Fiction. 13 & up)