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Bunheads, by Sophie Flack

February 9, 2012

In Bunheads, the main character, Hannah Ward, dances in the Manhattan Ballet Company in the corps de ballet. As Hannah recognizes, ballet isn’t as pretty on the inside as it seems on the outside. Many of the girls are anorexic, because of the extreme demands that are placed upon them, such as “Don’t think, just dance.” As Hannah struggles to stand out, the theme emerges: to be yourself and not who other people want you to be. Hannah has to struggle to realize her true self.

Hannah’s desire is to be promoted to soloist. She works hard to become “perfect” in the company’s eyes by taking yoga and Pilates classes after rehearsals. I could sympathize with her experience with the fictional Manhattan Ballet Company as she goes through her days, never seeing that there is any other way to live her life.

Then two people that she meets introduce her to a life beyond the constraints of the company and the people there. Matt and Jacob bring a small amount of normality to Hannah’s life. She realizes that living off tuna fish and Bugles is ridiculous and that the restrictions the company establishes for the dancers are absurd. She realizes that she can have a life outside of ballet—that she wants to live like a “pedestrian.” Pedestrians are what the ballerinas call non-dancers.

The narrative voice in this book is first person. This is effective because it makes it so the reader can see the visuals and make a movie in our minds as Hannah narrates the emotions she feels and describes the people she knows. This makes it easier to relate to her and more interesting to read.

The genre of this book is contemporary realistic fiction. Most of the places in this book are real, and Flack creates only realistic characters. She herself attended the Boston Ballet School as a child and went on to a full scholarship at the School of American Ballet in New York City.

I would recommend Bunheads to people who enjoy seeing the hidden parts of a life on stage, as well as those who enjoy a wonderfully thought-provoking contemporary realistic novel.

Publisher: Poppy, 294 pages

Emily

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