One wrong turn by Chenee Marrapodi

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This is the book for all the girls who have dreamed of being a ballerina dazzling in a tutu on stage, who have attended dance classes and experienced the pain of sore feet and aching muscles, and who have always wanted to read a book that reflects their love of dance!  It is on pointe!

Amelia lives for Ballet; she dreams that she will one day be a professional dancer like her parents were in their past, and she is prepared to work hard for her dream. Along the way though she must work out how to impress without adding more pressure and how to win lead roles without upsetting everyone else. The lead role in the upcoming concert should be hers, but the arrival of the new girl Valentina, a recent Italian immigrant, is adding a potential misstep to her plans. Valentina  has finesse and a triple pirouette, but her English is still a struggle and the ballet school, and its students, have not made her arrival the easiest transition. The casting of the lead role in the ballet Cinderella causes stresses for both girls; lies and family and cultural issues almost disrupt the production. Can they overcome differences and their own insecurities to shine on stage?

This is definitely a book for lovers of ballet, as the language of ballet and the environment of a Ballet school are almost foreign territory for those without a dance background. But the story of the girls struggling with their own desires to succeed, and their competing family expectations, is universal, and even those without an understanding of the rigours of ballet will appreciate this well-written teen story. The interpersonal struggles within the teen troupe are realistic and believable, and the story is told through the voice and perspective of Amelia and Valentina in different chapters. A gentle insight into the migrant experience is also delightful. I appreciated the warm understanding of the author (presumably from her own dancing experience) of this artistic realm, but the insights into the snide and subtle bullying and exclusion and the unhealthy competitive striving that can undermine any group of teens who have different abilities was also quite powerful. I can absolutely recommend this book for readers aged 11-15 … but especially those who love ballet. Teacher's notes are available.

Themes: Ballet, Lies, Competition, Friendship, Italian-Australians, Migrants.

Carolyn Hull