Anything but fine by Tobias Madden

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Ballet is Luca’s world, he has been at ballet school in Ballarat since he was three and now, at 16 he is looking forward to joining the Australian Ballet School once he has passed the auditions, only six months away. But disaster strikes as he falls down stairs and breaks his foot and ankle so badly it seems he will never dance again. Best friend, bitchy, competitive Talia and offsiders Grace and Abbey are also in his ballet class and he can’t seem to cope with their concern. Luca is adrift, his dreams shattered and a big part of his life gone. He withdraws and becomes depressed, only going out for his physiotherapy sessions with occupational therapist Sami. When he meets year 12 rower and footballer Jordan in the waiting room, Luca is smitten: “this guy is definitely hot, and I’m assuming he’s straight, because this is Ballarat and everyone is straight” p. 26. Seeing Jordan becomes the one bright spot in his life as his poor academic record means the private school scholarship he had won due to his ballet prowess is revoked and he has to start school at North Secondary. Here he is buddied up with Amina Amhad whose unwavering positivity helps balance the casual homophobic bullying Luca experiences in class. As Luca slowly adjusts to his new life he gains a different perspective on some unexamined attitudes he and his friends had held and finds new ways to cope with the help of Amina and Jordan who are on their own journeys.

This funny and sad story is full of believable, often flawed, characters whose relationships are heartbreakingly real. Luca’s father deserves a medal, treading a fine parenting line with his vulnerable young adult son. Regardless of gender identity this love story will have wide appeal.

Themes: Identity, Relationships, Love.

Sue Speck