Published by Poppy on October 10, 2011
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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?
After reading a few disturbing books at the end of February, I needed to curl up with something that I knew I’d love. I recently received Bunheads by Sophie Flack on BookMooch, a book trading website. I’ve heard mixed reviews of this young adult novel, but because I was a dancer growing up I was really interested in reading a book featuring a ballerina. I definitely picked up Bunheads at the perfect time – I found it a quick and comforting read.
Bunheads tells the story of Hannah Ward, a nineteen-year-old in the Manhattan Ballet Company’s corps de ballet. The book is written in Hannah’s first-person perspective, and is separated into the three seasons the ballet performs: fall, winter, and spring. Readers follow Hannah as she faces a multitude of struggles in her young life. Hannah wants more than anything to be promoted to a soloist in the company, but receiving that position requires a strict diet and workout schedule, and forces her to compete against her closet friends. At the same time, Hannah wants desperately to be a normal teenager, but ballet dancers in the Manhattan Ballet Company rarely leave the confines of the theatre.
I really enjoyed Hannah’s story, and connected with her in many ways. Even though I am not a professional dancer, I understand how it feels to move to New York City and try to follow your dreams when you are young and alone. Just like Hannah, I struggle with balancing my career with my personal life, and I really admired how Hannah handled her situation.
Bunheads does feature a love triangle, but I think it worked really well with this story. It wasn’t overdone, and it wasn’t dramatic. Instead, it was quite realistic, and the conflict brought an interesting twist to the story. I only mention the love triangle in my review because I know that is a key buzzword for some readers when deciding whether or not to pick up a book.
The only criticisms I have with Bunheads are very small indeed. First, Flack uses a multitude of ballet terms throughout the novel. Because I took ballet for several years, I had no problem pronouncing or understanding the different dance positions and movements. However, readers with no dance background will probably find these terms frustrating, so it would be very helpful to include a glossary in the back of the book with the proper pronunciations, translation from French to English, and a short description of what the step is.
Furthermore, I found the pacing in Bunheads to be a little confusing at times. Even though the story was separated by season, I found that time moved much quicker that I would have expected. For instance, if a scene takes place in the book, the next scene could be either the next day, or the next week, or even a few weeks down the road. The timing between chapters was not consistent, and I would have liked more markers so I could follow where I was. However, this is really nitpicking, and it really did not detract much from the story at all.
Overall, I really loved Bunheads and highly recommend it to anyone who was a dancer or who is interesting in dancing. The author is a retired ballerina herself, so I loved the authenticity in the story. I learned so much about what it takes to be a professional dancer, but at the same time I connected to this book on a personal level. I’m really impressed with Flack’s ability to make Hannah’s story my story even though we lead very different lives. I will definitely be rereading Bunheads at some point in the future, and I anxiously await Flack’s next book, whatever it may be!