Sophie Flack has one of my favorite YA covers of the year. It just looks utterly gorgeous to me. Fortunately, the contents of the book proved to be mostly strong enough to fit the beautiful cover.
Synopsis: 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? (Goodreads.com)
Hannah is dedicated and devoted to dance. That much is beyond obvious and it is a theme that is present throughout the entire book. Hannah wants her chance in the ballet world, her chance to move up. However, she is also a girl who feels that there are parts of life she is missing out on. She lives in New York City, one of the most fabulous cities in the world, yet she barely has the time to explore it. When she isn't sleeping, she is dancing, practicing, dancing and performing. Then she meets Jacob, a guy who makes her take a hard look at her own life and what she wants from it.
This book isn't mind blowing by any means but I enjoyed it for the look into the world of ballet it provided. Sophie Flack danced with the New York City Ballet from 2000-2009 according to the ARC and you know what, that real life experience shows in the book. At first, I felt that some of the book's descriptions were not quite natural, were more explanatory than natural but as the story moved forward, and as the terms of Hannah's ballets moves had been finally explored, the prose of the story became more natural and fitting with the grace and strength one associates with ballet.
The author also captures the competitive nature of ballet so very well. There is a bloody gruesomeness in how dedicated Hannah is, on what she is willing to give up, one what she will do to move forward with her career. It's not enough to be good or great or even amazing. There are so many people that Hannah had to impress, to win over, that even when she wasn't practicing, she was playing up to those people who had her career in the palm of their hands. And even her friends were just as much her enemy and competitors as being confidants. I came away from this book that ballet is in many ways truly a solo endeavor because there are so many people willing to step over you if you aren't willing to put yourself first.
I enjoyed Hannah's dilemma when it came to Jacob but also felt that it was in her character to hurt him just because of her dedication, and I was proved right. Hannah is conflicted but this has also been her life since she was young, how do you break those habits?
Bunheads was an interesting look into the world of ballet. It didn't have that crazy/psycho aspect that Black Swan had, instead, it just felt like an honest look into what a woman has to go through to be part of something you have to love with every fiber of your being. Hannah is nineteen in this book, almost out of her teens, but yet at times she reads younger and I think that was rather natural, given her lack of experiences in some of the more fun and free moments of life.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and I think it will have great appeal for most teen girls. Even if they aren't dancers right now, how many teens do we know who took some dance classes as little girls and had to suffer through bad recitals? So many. This is a good choice for most libraries. Also, I met the author at BEA this year and she was really sweet. Not that that should matter in your decision to read this book but I had a fun time talking about her dancing experiences with her.
Bunheads comes out in October 2011 Little Brown's Poppy line.
Abby the Librarian reviews Bunheads
ARC picked up at BEA 2011.