The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of pages: 326

Alina has been studying ballet for 10 years and has plans to make a career out of it when a devastating injury brings her dream crashing down. With therapy, she is able to walk and resume normal functionality, but her dreams of ballet dancing are over. She must learn to engage fully in her high school and begin to heal and make new friends. She quickly learns that many of the high school peers had previously seen her as standoffish as she never spoke to anyone and only focused on ballet. Now, that she is going to school full-time and not splitting her time with ballet she has to find a way to be happy and start to deal with the grief she feels over the loss of ballet. One way her parents convince her to move on is to try out for the school musical and she ends up getting a dancing part. She comes to find that there are several great people who try out for the play, but every time she starts to forget about her past her best friend texts her to see how she’s doing. She knows her best friend is just trying to stay close and has the best intentions, but she finds herself feeling dread every time she gets a text. She does not want to know what is happening at her own studio now that she is not there, but she knows it isn’t her friend’s fault that she got hurt. Can she overcome the sadness of losing ballet in order to appreciate the good things she has in life? Can she make true friends at her school who will support her even when she acts irrationally? Can she stay friends with someone who still does ballet when she can’t?

Alina’s story will resonate with many teenagers simply because many are trying to reach a difficult goal and often face obstacles such as injury that stand in the way. Alina is fortunate to have so many people who want to help and support her, but it’s hard to accept help when you’re not ready for it. The book does touch on some racial biases in the world of ballet as well, which is something readers may not be aware of. Family is another topic that is mentioned as Alina must reconnect with the sister she left behind on her quest to dance. This story emphasizes the importance of family and friends in life to help you get through the tough times, but to be by your side for the good times. Recommended for fans of Jenny Han or Suzanne Colasanti.

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