Content Warning: protagonist is dealing with a lot of anger and some depression, various experiences of racism
Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg–and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it.
After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected–namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive cast mate she just might be falling for.
But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she had grown to accept in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet–something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else?
Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice.
Title: The Other Side of Perfect
Author: Mariko Turk
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
If you’re looking for a book full or heart and devastating truths, you’ve come to the right place. This YA novel gets into the nitty-gritty lessons about grief, hardship, and the injustices we encounter in this world.
This book is darker than most YA contemporary novels I read because the main character, Alina, is going through so much. She’s just lost out on her dream of becoming a dancer and must come to terms with her new future, on top of other cruel encounters along the way. Our former dancer is angry and upset and hurt and in pain over what she nearly had. There are a lot of hard emotions she’s trying to cope with. I think Turk did an amazing job of presenting these emotions and helping our character work through them with the help of new and old friends around her.
And there are a lot of great characters in this book. We get to meet a whole new group of friends in the theatre, as Alina has to try to find something to replace dancing in her life. They are fun and encouraging and I just wanted to give them all a big hug.
I am especially a fan of Jude (obviously). I think Turk did a great job of adding in the romance of Jude and Alina without taking away from the more serious parts of this book. Alina needed more support in her life and she was able to find it through her new group of friends, but especially through Jude. He was always there and just understood her so well. And even when he didn’t quite understand, he was there to lend a shoulder to cry on.
Overall, however, this was a very enjoyable book. I’m so happy I got the opportunity to get to know Alina and take this tough journey with her. I can only hope all dancers of color out there and those who have suffered devasting loss can receive the justice and healing they need.
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed a gifted and advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
About the Author
Mariko Turk grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in creative writing. She received her PhD in English from the University of Florida, with a concentration in children’s literature. Currently, she works as a Writing Center consultant at the University of Colorado Boulder.
She lives in Colorado with her husband and baby daughter, where she enjoys tea, walks, and stories of all kinds.