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Reading Between Classes

A unique perspective on YA Literature from a junior high teacher. 

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Bunheads - Sophie Flack This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: This cover is really pretty and reminds me of the fractal geometry projects that my students do in math class. The image is reflective of the struggle for each dancer to look identical as a company but fighting to stand out and be noticed as an individual.The Gist: Hannah Ward is a bunhead. She spends her days and nights practicing, performing and pining to be featured as soloist. When she meets a musician named Jacob, she begins to question whether or not she is as dedicated to this life as she once believedReview: It seems I am in the minority on this one. I have wanted to read it for a long time and was excited to have an addition to my classroom library that would appeal to my little dancers (with a plethora of sports books, it is always nice to find a different kind of "interests" book). I wanted to like this book, I really did. But, when I started putting it down in order to do other things (like laundry and the dishes) that it was simply not living up to expectations.If you read the bio of the author you will find out that she danced with the New York City Ballet as part of the corps de ballet. She retired in 2009 and is now studying English at Columbia University. SPOILER ALERT: Hannah dances with the Manhattan Ballet Company as part of the corps de ballet and quits to study Creative Writing at New York University. Sound familiar? There is nothing wrong with writing an autobiography but please, call it an autobiography.This story reads much the same way as the stories my students tell when they are in trouble. They tell a version that is close to the truth, but one that paints them in the best light possible. Hannah's motivations do not seem sincere and I am skeptical that Sophie she truly left the company because she wanted to expand her horizons (rather than because her friend was promoted and she was angry and jealous).As a character, she is unlikeable and indecisive. It takes the entire book for her to act on a decision that she had clearly already made shortly after meeting Jacob. She is not particularly kind, or funny, or smart. Even her struggle with her weight doesn't feel genuine and we only see the consequences of extreme dieting in minor characters which doesn't provide any emotional pay-off. The relationship with Jacob is boring at best and her flirtation with Matt does not teach her anything and seemed completely unnecessary. Bunheads did keep my interest enough for me to finish but, ultimately, was a disappointment. I was hoping for a backstage pass into the world of ballet, one that showed the dedication and determination of the dancers and the lengths to which they are willing to go in order to secure their success. What I got instead was a watered down version of life within a Company and the story of a girl who spends 11 years working toward a dream only to give it up for a boyfriend. Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 16 and upGender: FemaleSex: Kissing, Possible sex - not described at allViolence: NoneInappropriate Language: Nutfucker, Sluttier, Fuck BuddySubstance Abuse: Underage drinking