Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: "Bunheads" by Sophie Flack

When I was in third grade, my teacher, pretty, willowy Mrs. Eaton, would say,
'Dance each step as if it were your last.' ... It was another ten years before I
understood what Mrs. Eaton had been saying. What she meant was:
 Time is precious.  And it speeds up.

Nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward is a dancer with the prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company. Her world consists solely of hours of intense rehearsals, soaring performances in front of crowds both critical and awe-struck, and backstage friendships that are by turns fiercely protective and fiercely competitive. But when Hannah meets Jacob, an endearing college student and aspiring musician, she begins to realize that there are new and exciting possibilities outside of ballet. As Hannah struggles to build a relationship with Jacob and advance out of the corps, she must reevaluate what she wants most out of life.

I am not a dancer, but I have a deep and abiding adoration for movies and books that revolve around the world of dance. This book was no exception. I loved Bunheads. I loved how real Hannah and her world felt. Flack's obvious knowledge of the ballet community shines through beautifully and gives Bunheads that extra oomph other dance books lack. Flack isn’t afraid to move past the glitzy, perfect exterior and expose the gritty, harsh reality of ballet. I was afraid the use of the technical terms would detract from my ability, as a non-dancer, to enjoy the book but, fortunately, the opposite was true. The ballet jargon felt real and natural, and didn’t hamper my understanding in the slightest. I may not have known what specific move Hannah was doing, but the novel would have felt unrealistic if everything was written in layman’s terms.

What I most appreciated in this novel was how Hannah's struggle to decide her future is universal. Everyone goes through this struggle at least once in life, sometimes revisiting decisions later on. It doesn't matter if you are a dancer or not, because the emotions and the upheaval and the stress are the same in every situation. Hannah's struggle was familiar to me and the turmoil she experienced resonated with thoughts and feeling I have had. As a consequence, I empathized with her, could relate to her life, and appreciated the book more for its universal themes.

More than just a simple dance book, Bunheads is a multi-layered story about loving something so much, devoting your entire life to that one thing, and then realizing that there might be something even better waiting in the wings.

Book Source: My local library
Reviewer: Kimberly

Recommended Ages: 14+ for mild language, underage drinking, mild discussion of eating disorders

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