Paperback, 294 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Atom
(First published October 10th 2011)
Description via Goodreads:
As a dancer with the Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward is living her childhood dream. She gets to be up on stage in front of adoring crowds every night. And while she might not be a prima ballerina yet, she's moving up the ranks and surely if she works hard enough she can make it happen.
But devoting her whole life to ballet leaves very little time for anything else: friends, family, school have all fallen by the wayside. Hannah doesn't mind, until a chance encounter in a restaurant brings Jacob into her life. He's cute, he plays guitar and he's offering a whole future that Hannah never considered. And now she must choose between her lifelong dream or what could be the love of her life...
My thanks go to Atom for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
I was eagerly anticipating this book being published in the UK after hearing rave reviews of it from many international reviewers. I've never been particularly interested in the ballet, but this book gave a very fascinating insight into the dancing world. This book will certainly appeal to anyone who has an interest in dance as well as fans of coming of age, contemporary novels. Apparently, this book also has a lot of likeness to Black Swan (though toned down), though I've never watched it - so if you liked that, check this out!
It is clear that Sophie Flack, the author, has an incredible knowledge of ballet and the inner workings of ballet groups. There is quite a lot of dance-related terminology used without any explanation but I don't think that it is at all necessary to know what all of the terms mean - it's easy to just get drawn into Hannah's world. Hannah is our protagonist who is completely devoted to her art . However, alongside her, we struggle to decide whether she is making the best choice for herself - can she be a ballerina and lead a 'normal' life? It's hard to say and even at the end, it's difficult to know if Hannah has made the right choice for herself or not. Hannah is a very down to earth and realistic character and it's understandable to see how and why she had issues with her options for the future.
I wouldn't say that there were many 'OMG' moments or huge plot twists, but there is a lot of underlying drama in Bunheads. The book is rather subdued and relaxed but it's certainly not boring - it's just subtle. There is the right amount of gritty and raw information about the strictness and mentality of some dancers. The details are quite constant and very realistic. The novel wasn't so much focused on the struggles of being a dancer but rather with how Hannah and her friends dealt with them and how they grew and developed in such a disciplined situation.
I thought that the relationships in this book were very well written. Hannah's friendships are typical of an environment that's quite female dominated and very competitive. I found it difficult to trust some of Hannah's friends, just like she did. I did find them quite endearing in their own way though and everyone in the group had distinct personalities and attitudes.
I really loved Hannah and Jacob's relationship. It took a while for chemistry to build up between them and I did feel sorry for both of them a lot of the time. I sympathised with Jacob for putting so much effort into trying to spend time with Hannah and I sympathised with Hannah for finding it difficult to find that time. I found their relationship to be very realistic, I just loved the development of it and that they worked together through the problems. I don't know what Hannah was doing with the other love interest, the balletomane Matt, but it was interesting to see the different kinds of people that dancers come across in their lives.
Overall, this was a very interesting book which taught me a lot about the backstage goings-on of ballet dancers and the hard work that they go through, both physically and mentally. This was a relaxed but entertaining book that had me questioning to the end. I think that this one will appeal to a lot of young adult and adult readers alike.