Turning by Joy L. Smith

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Synopsis

In this raw, searingly honest debut young adult novel, a former aspiring ballerina must confront her past in order to move forward from a devastating fall that leaves her without the use of her legs.

Genie used to fouetté across the stage. Now the only thing she’s turning are the wheels to her wheelchair. Genie was the star pupil at her exclusive New York dance school, with a bright future and endless possibilities before her. Now that the future she’s spent years building toward has been snatched away, she can’t stand to be reminded of it—even if it means isolating herself from her best friends and her mother. The only wish this Genie has is to be left alone.

But then she meets Kyle, who also has a “used to be.” Kyle used to tumble and flip on a gymnastics mat, but a traumatic brain injury has sent him to the same physical therapist that Genie sees. With Kyle’s support, along with her best friend’s insistence that Genie’s time at the barre isn’t over yet, Genie starts to see a new path—one where she doesn’t have to be alone and she finally has the strength to heal from the past. 

But healing also means confronting. Confronting the booze her mother, a recovering alcoholic, has been hiding under the kitchen sink; the ex-boyfriend who was there the night of the fall and won’t leave her alone; and Genie’s biggest, most terrifying secret: the fact that the accident may not have been so accidental after all.

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Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Turning by Joy L. Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a fantastic book! Thank you to Book Club Favorites at Simon & Schuster for the free copy for review. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to explore some different perspectives on life and makes for an excellent book club read. I think those who appreciate relationship dynamics, noting some heavy themes, that said, younger audiences of teen age may be familiar with such circumstances and this is an authentic book that approaches such subject matter with both honesty and delicacy. There is a lot to think and talk about in this one, I’d highly recommend it.

I love the cover. It’s rare for me to say since people on the cover of books are typically a hard pass for me, unless it’s nonfiction, this was an exception and says so much.

Expected publication: March 1, 2022.

The Story
I think this book is unique in that with an overall storyline. It was an excellent depiction of someone working through life tragedies, confronting them as circumstances come where the messy bits were left in. Wasn’t bandwagon over-embellished hero or antihero, was just a character and perspective that told a genuine story.

I found myself straightening up my posture when reading the beginning of the book, being familiar with the dance aspects, and it was about at page 83 when my eyes welled.

This book was incredibly well thought out. It also had wide-generational appeal and it didn’t hold back on the difficult conversations.

It covered the full spectrum of ballet from learning grace, self-awareness, discipline, and determination. Striving to be prima and developing a professional ballet career. I like how it picked the obsession with ballet, the living, breathing, soul searching that dancers have camaraderie in. It evoked the passion and culture of ballet. Pointed out the talent and exclusiveness of ballet as an art form, body type, and appearance celebrating a character that embodies the essence of the art while also showing how one character worked through barriers, limitation, self-doubt, and hope.

Anyone who has had an injury in such a way as depicted in this book will understand the forethought of any physical activity and was very much relatable. It’s rare for me not to pick a book apart when it comes to medical aspects, but this book displayed a very authentic experience when it came to certain struggles, was extremely well done. It definitely didn’t shy away from the realities of living with a disability. Parallels by the inward and outward experiences of having a disability.

A deeply honest, personal look into regret.

Vulnerability in insecurities without being over self-loathing.

Reluctance. Bordering bitterness. Resentment. Betrayal. Overcoming. Self-worth. Identity. Inner turmoil.

I typically wouldn’t go into much detail to point these out, but I feel it would be helpful for readers know certain themes in the book, adding depth, for readers who are drawn to stories and situations where their likeness was represented as they may really appreciate this:

-Racial elements, stigmas, stereotypes. It dove into certain aspects of racial divide in many circumstances in the book.

-Parent-child relationship.

-Alcoholic parent.

-Separated/divorced parents.

-Peer and romantic relationships. Serious but not unfamiliar circumstances that teens may probably relate well to. I loved the best friend dynamic.

-Finality of life as you see it.

-Grief.

It somewhat broadly speaks to an audience but certain people will know and identify with certain experiences.

And it was a very multi-layered, but focused approach which I really quite enjoyed the dynamics of it all. I also appreciated the pop culture references.

The Writing
It’s written with a certain authenticity to multiple points of view and experiences. I liked the POV from first person, hearing her thoughts just the morsel of explanation to keep the intrigue but not so much that it gave everything away.

It used a style of writing that I love. Using descriptors as verbs, cutting out the fluff. A master of language that speaks for itself. There were a few sentences I stumbled over, I think it had more to do with a change up in sentence structure than content and a re-read was few and made better sense after where I wasn’t sure what I’d change.

There was a youthfulness to the writing which I think will resonate to teens.

Tone
It was sincere. Wasn’t an overly deconstructed story in this way. I love the seriousness in tone with the snarky, the unsettled, the humor, the coping that the main character embodied.

Was a refreshing opposite of stereotypical and redundant tropes that are “I’ll be a bigger hero than you ever were!” Made for an appealing read through and through.

Characters
It was a delicate yet honest look at specific life experience, capturing internal and external conflict. It depicted a strong, yet vulnerable character well. Right away there was an established personality and it was refreshing to see her navigate the many dimensions in life.

I thought the character distinction was really good, child, mother, friends.

There was this current point and time aspect but the book length is enough to see the trajectory of grieving process.

Multi-dimensional characters is multi-dimensional circumstances.

Dialogue
The dialogue matched colloquial style, and life stage banter.

I loved her best friend and her expressions, it was nice to see a distinction of dialogue amongst characters.

Even mom was incredibly mom-like.

Bonus
I loved the chapter introductions.

I’ll be looking forward to reading more from this author.

Favorite Lines
*To be revealed upon final publication.

View all my reviews

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