04 July 2014

Bunheads by Sophie Flack

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?
I confess: I started Bunheads with a smirk of skepticism, confident that I would be tossing it aside within a few pages.  I fully expected fluffiness with a side of superficiality and a dash of drama (for taste).  But Bunheads posed an interesting comparison: the craft of storytelling versus the message it was delivering.  It has to be said that the craft of it has to be moderately well done in order for the message to be clearly delivered, even if I didn't think that the craft was as good as it could've been in the case of Bunheads.  I did think it a tad glossy overall, but Bunheads explored some serious issues.  Some expected, others not as much.

First, Hannah.  (I keep forgetting that her name actually was Hannah.  She didn't come off as very "Hannah"-ish to me.)  I had a good sense of her character, who she was, what she was dealing with, and how her thought process worked.  Yet she wasn't as defined as main characters typically are for me.  She just sort of floated in my head, not really taking up space or crowding anybody.  I haven't decided yet if this is a good or bad thing.

As for the issues explored: I wasn't surprised at the casual remarks about eating disorders, though I reckon there was a bit of flippancy involved there.  Sophie Flack just seemed awful nonchalant about it sometimes.  I was also not surprised by the happy happenstance of Jacob, the hippishly named hipster musician who took to Hannah as if there was nobody else in the room, or New York for that matter.

What I was expecting was there to be more about The Boy.  I figured it was going to be a summery kind of tale, all Nicholas Sparks style, where The Boy shows The Girl how to live life Properly.  But Jacob was more of another facet of the story, not really taking center stage for long.  So if there's anything to be said definitively about Bunheads, it was not -- in my mind, anyway, and certainly not compared to others out there -- a romance.

What is was was an exploration of the idea, the terrifyingly exciting idea, of giving up something you had been doing and loving and sacrificing everything for since you were too young to understand what dedication was in order to pursue something else.  This was something I identified with on a very personal level, having gone through the same dilemma.  So the theme of Bunheads resonated with me, and I think this made the drama of the ballet life entertaining rather than insufferable, as I had expected it to be.

For me, Bunheads was on par with Sarah Dessen's first novel, That Summer, in that Sophie Flack's talent packs a lot of potential even if it isn't entirely realized yet.

Things are prettier in June, but they're clearer in July.
Considering I pretty much melted from a single peck on the cheek, I'm worried that a real kiss would turn me into a quivering puddle of goo. But I'm willing to take the chance.
Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 294
  • published - October 2011
  • publisher - Poppy
  • genre - contemporary fiction
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 5/5