Nineteen-year-old Hannah has been with her ballet company since she was 14. Her ambition is to move from the corps de ballet and to start dancing solo roles. However, most of her life has been spent focussed on dance, and there has been little opportunity for relationships, other interests, or even spending time with family. Meeting two very different guys starts to show Hannah that she has been missing out on experiences that other girls take for granted, and led her to question what she really wants.
The characters of Hannah and her friends are well drawn in that they are not the angelic heroines found in most ballet books. Sometimes nasty, sometimes kind, frequently jealous yet also supportive, Hannah, Zoe, Bea and Daisy are an entertaining group. The absence of a clear antagonist lends Sophie Flack’s Bunheads an ambiguity and maturity that appeals.
While the male characters in the love triangle are not very developed, this is appropriate as the girls are the main characters. I did find Jacob a little childish, and it seemed surprising that a young urban male would be concerned about what his friends thought and would object to a woman being busy with her career. This does reflect relationship conflicts experienced by partners who are in different and high-pressure fields. This tension between the ballet dancer’s life and the demands of a more regular lifestyle is a key theme of the book. Even without any particular interest in ballet, many young women would relate to the career disappointments and struggles Hannah faces.
The issue of weight is also a common motif in ballet books, and Bunheads is no exception. I have read just about every ballet story there is, from the Drina Ballerina series toAngelina Ballerina. I devoured Lorna Hill’s novels set at Sadler’s Wells, Darcey Bussell’s fiction, as well as old books like the Green Slippers. Movies like Center Stage and The Turning Point and TV shows like Dance Academy all enthralled me. So perhaps saying that the Bunheads plot lacks originality is unfair of me. On the one hand, I was hoping for the book to offer something different, a fresh take on the ballet world, especially given Sophie Flack’s own career in ballet. On the other hand, the author delivers what many of the above works do, and so a reader would probably enjoy it on that basis.
Available now: Hachette RRP$17.99