Poppy Books, 294 Pages
Released: October 10, 2011
As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet.
But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah's universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other "bunheads" in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?
My reasons for accepting aren't entirely clear to me, and honestly I don't feel like figuring them out. Sometimes you just want to say yes. As Otto always says, "Don't think, just do."
As a wannabe balletomane (if only I had the money...) and a childhood ballet dancer, I was so excited to read this book it was ridiculous. Dance and movement are magical, and I couldn't wait to read about this experience and get a backstage look at it all. I've had a small peek since I lived with dancers for awhile, but an actual company member? Yes please.
As a whole, I really liked the book - it was detailed and created such a vivid world. I loved how real the competitive friendship between Hannah and Zoe was, and I was quite pleased with the polarity of Matt and Jacob. I'd read a few reviews who didn't like how much they contrasted, but I thought it was actually quite accurate; in such an insulated world, there really is a separation between those who can understand it and who can't.
The access to a mysterious world of company ballet was also incredible. Like I mentioned, I lived with dancers for awhile so I knew some things; but it was amazing to actually see the life laid out in the book, how changes in wings and schedules posting were done. How driven each dancer needs to be and how much is demanded of them was also fantastic to read about, and I still can't believe that people can dedicate an entire life to this singular thing. I understand it in my own ways, but how it overtakes your mental, physical, social and personal life is absolutely insane.
But truthfully, I found the book to be a bit...boring? I don't mean that in the "oh my god it was so hard to get through this" sense, because it wasn't. I was engaged in it and wanted to know what was going to happen. But I felt like it was all story-telling description (of which was great!) and very little action. The parts that were supposed to be the action and the rise and fall weren't actually very exciting, and I found most of it to be fairly predictable.
But I definitely don't regret reading this. I enjoyed it, and think that any little ballet dancer or anyone who has an interest in the world would enjoy it, too. Even if you don't know anything about ballet, the book does really well in creating an understandable world and opening it up to "pedestrians."
As a small note though, the book does use all the terms for dance moves and positions - something I didn't mind as a former dancer and the knowledge of what it all means. I could see it being a small turn-off, but I urge any reader to push through.
PS. I also happen to love the cover! I think it's very odd in an interesting way.