If you think that ballet dancers have it easy, think again...or read Bunheads, Sophie Flack's debut novel all about the life of a dancer with the prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company.
Hannah Ward is doing what she's always wanted to do - dance. Hannah's whole life has revolved around ballet, and now that's she nineteen, it's about to get a lot tougher. Adding to the general drama of dancing life, Hannah meets Jacob, a talented musician who she is instantly attracted to. Hannah's committment to ballet and the dancing world, however, proves to be a test in her new relationship, as Hannah grows to realise there is more to the world than just dancing.
I fell in love with this book from the minute I first heard of it. I love books to do with dancing, and it's not often that you get one that portrays the real life world as a dancer. Bunheads was a true on form account on what happens in a dance company - written by a dancer herself.
Bunheads is definitely a book for the older YA readers, as it's definitely not your average Ballet Shoes or Angelina Ballerina read. Bunheads is gritty - it's a world where eating disorders are rife and dancers are under the pressure to remain thin and waife-like. Friendships are tested and the claws come out in wanting to show up each other - and these girls aren't even twenty yet. But this is what I loved about the book. It shows a different side to ballet - certainly not the glamourous side that we see going to watch a performance, but what happens backstage. Yet at the same time, while the reader is asking Why on earth would you put yourself through all of that? you are given the picture of what makes ballet so beautiful, and where the love of dancing comes from for many of the girls.
What I also enjoyed about the book was that the main character wasn't some wimpy, naive girl. Hannah was a strong character, but at the same time she was exactly like every girl in the company - catty and bitchy towards the other dancers, quick to pick faults with her friends and talk about them behind their back. Sure, this isn't exactly the type of trait you'd want in a friend, but what makes Hannah unique compared to all of her dancer friends is that she realises that there's a life outside of it all, and that dancing has, in a way, shaped her to be a person that she really doesn't want to be. There were at times, when Hannah was a little too selfish and wrapped up in her own world so much that you wanted to strangle her, but I'm starting to realise that when reading a book, that's a good thing. Emotions mean I'm enjoying the book.
And then the romance. Oh, I lapped this up. Jacob was perfect. I loved him myself. I loved how understanding he was about Hannah's ballet, and how awestruck he was by her dancing. How from the word go, he took it on board, he didn't glamourize it and he was supportive. He wasn't afraid, as well, to speak up about how much he was hurting when she put dancing before him. But always, he was still there for her. And it broke my heart, it tore me in two, it made me sigh in contentment and wish that I could have a Jacob in my life!
While for those who don't know the ballet world (like I do; this was a dream come true for me), understanding the French terminology may be difficult, as there was no index to what certain words mean, and thus are lost in translation when trying to understand why Hannah is sweating away at trying to perfect certain moves. This is still an enjoyable novel, and in a world where ballet is so hot right now (thanks, Natalie Portman), this is one book you'll want to read. You'll feel like a dancer, if only for a little while.show more