Saturday, January 21, 2012

Kid Konnection: Bunheads

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to review an entertaining young adult book that definitely would have captured my interested as a teen.

Summary: On-stage beauty. Backstage drama. 

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? -- Poppy

When I was about Booking Daughter's age, I read a book called MAGGIE ADAMS DANCER over and over again. I absolutely loved this novel about a teen girl who was dealing with the issues that ballerinas faced including weight concerns and competition between the dances. This novel still remains in my thoughts as one of my very favorite tween reads, and I suspect that I even dreamed about what it would be like to be a ballerina. A few years ago, I stumbled across a used copy of this book and I was so excited because I could share it with Booking Daughter.

So when I heard about the new novel BUNHEADS by Sophie Flack, I immediately wanted to read it. First of all, the book description reminded me a bit of MAGGIE ADAMS DANCER so my curiosity was piqued. However, BUNHEADS was written by a woman who actually danced with the New York City Ballet for nine years. I figured I'd get an insider look at a dancer's life from someone who actually knew the inner workings of a major ballet company.

BUNHEADS is Sophie Flack's debut novel and I think it's a strong start. I enjoyed this story and the characters, and maybe it's the tween in me, but I liked all of the drama surrounding the dancers. The competition between the dancers was as intense as I imagined, yet I found it difficult to comprehend how early these girls (and boys) started devoting their life to their craft. Their dedication to dance is admirable and I thought BUNHEADS showed this extremely well.

I truly felt as if the author of BUNHEADS captured the essence of how a major dance company works. I loved getting a glimpse at the personalities of the teachers and dancers as well as seeing their day-to-day schedules. I had no idea that even after dancers performed all day at the studio, many of them go to gyms and yoga classes to continue their workouts. In addition, I knew that there was pressure on the girls to stay thin, but it broke my heart when Hannah began to develop (at 19 years old nonetheless) and had to bind her chest to appear flatter.

While I enjoyed getting a look into how a major ballet company works, there were other things I enjoyed about this book. First of all, I really liked Hannah and even though I have almost nothing in common with her, I found that I could relate to her. She seemed like a pretty authentic character to me and I respected her devotion to dance. She moved away from her parents at a very young age to train as a ballerina and she basically gave up her "normal" life for the opportunity to perform. What I most appreciated about her character, though, was when she began to get a taste of a life outside of dance; and I really liked how BUNHEADS explored Hannah's conflict and ultimate decisions.

Another thing I enjoyed about BUNHEADS was that it took place in New York City. Even though Hannah spent most of her waking hours at the company, she did get to explore New York a little as she began to realize a life outside of dancing. With the help of a friend, Hannah began to actually notice some of the wonderful things that the city has to offer.

I'm debating about whether I should share BUNHEADS with Booking Daughter. I do think she'd enjoy it, but there are some adult issues in the novel. There is a fair amount of underage drinking, although I don't know that I'd go so far as to say that it was glamorized. There were also some mentions of sex and homosexuality but I felt as if these references were pretty tame. When I keep in mind that Hannah was a 19 year old girl and not a tween, I think this book was a relatively clean read.

I enjoyed BUNHEADS a great deal and I think young girls, and especially dancers, will agree.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I still never got over that little girl desire to be a ballerina so I think I would enjoy this!

bermudaonion said...

I too am amazed at the dedication some young people show toward a craft and always wonder what happens if things don't work out for them, so this sounds fascinating to me.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

My daughter took ballet for three years but the rigorous discipline was too difficult for her. And I didn't want her to go through all the issues dancers go through. This book is perfect for girls who want a real view of the ballerina's life.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I remember Maggie Adams, Dancer! I danced ballet very seriously for ten years. It is still difficult for me to watch a ballet without bawling. Watching a dancer use their body to communicate is pure magic and beauty.

Karlie said...

I loved Maggie Adams, Dancer!! I think I would have enjoyed this book as well.

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I love stories with dance despite my extreme lack of talent in that area and this one was no exception. It was so heartbreaking to read about these girls' struggles to be thin enough and to be perfect but I loved every detail about the ballet life.

Beth F said...

I love stories about dance -- I'm going to have to pick this one up.