Written by: Sophie Flack
Released: October 10, 2011 by Poppy
Summary: 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?
First off, Sophie Flack is a darling and absolutely adorable. I was lucky enough to snag a signed copy of this novel – complete with a cute drawing of toe shoes - at BEA and I started to read it almost right away (I needed a book to read at lunch and this was my choice).
I’ve been fascinated with the world of ballet and the whole ballet life in New York City never since I watched the movie Center Stage. Watching Black Swan just upped my curiosity and by reading this novel I feel as though I’ve come away with a better understanding of the ballet world and what it means to be a part of it. Flack – being an ex-professional ballet dancer for the New York City Ballet – really was able to give this amazing insight into the whole culture and world of the dancers right down to the conflicting emotions that can be felt over weight or talent or promotions. I really felt as though I was there and witnessing everything as it happened; her writing was so descriptive and detailed.
Hannah was a great character to read. She was so real with her inner turmoil and her unerring devotion to her dancing. I was able to feel what she felt throughout the novel and really go through the entire experience with her. I loved how she was battling over what to do and how to do it with both her life and her career (the two usually being undistinguishable from each other), and by the end of the novel I was so happy for her about everything. She really was a character who I could imagine sitting across from me in a cafe, telling me her story. I think that this high level of realism comes from the fact that Flack lived this life for the better part of a decade and in some ways I could see this novel being a semi-biographical form of release.
What I hated about this novel – though not the novel per se, but the whole ballet mentality – was how eating disorders were looked upon in an almost positive light. I hated reading about how many rewards could be gained from constant “dieting” and excessive work outs. I realize that this is how it is in the ultra competitive world of dance (and the negative repercussions is explored in the novel), but I just didn’t like it. But it did make the novel a great reading experience because it was no holds barred.
In short, this was a fantastic debut and by far the best reading experience I’ve ever had about something like this. If this isn’t on your 2011 watch list, it should be. Whether you’re a dancer or just someone who’s interested in dance, this is the novel for you. I give it an 8/10.