The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk is an impactful story about identity and raising your voice. Following a dancer who suffers a career-ending injury, the emotions in this story run high, and the main character is exceptionally well-written. Her fight against racism in classical ballets is especially powerful, making this a thought-provoking read.Title: The Other Side of Perfect
Author: Mariko Turk
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but then a terrifying fall shatters her leg -- and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it.
After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected -- namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive castmate she just might be falling for.
But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she experienced in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet -- something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else?
Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice.
Review: The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk
After injuring her leg, Alina’s career as a dancer has come to an abrupt and devastating end. Now, having lost what she dedicated her entire life to, Alina starts at a new, ordinary high school with a wide-open schedule. When a new friend convinces her to join musical theatre, Alina finds a community and a new passion. However, without ballet taking up so much of her day, she has a lot of time to reflect on her experiences at her former dance school, and she realizes the racism ingrained in the school, choreographies, and casting–racism that she is determined to speak out against.
❀ Realistic Main Character
Alina is a realistic main character who undergoes many changes throughout the book. At the beginning, she is not the most likeable, and I appreciated the way the author does not exclude the pain and jealousy Alina feels as she watches her friends enjoy the opportunities she will never get to experience again. While Alina endures a lot of hardship, I loved her sense of humour and the way that her pain is not all there is to her. Her emotional journey is well-written, and I enjoyed accompanying her in her search to find herself without dance.
❀ Impactful Message
One of this book’s strengths is the author’s attention to racism in classical ballets and in many professional dance schools. As Alina reflects on her time as a dancer, she slowly starts to realize the racism in the Nutcracker and in her teacher’s casting decisions, and I enjoyed the way she calls it out and pushes for positive change. Alina learns from her sister’s own efforts that changing these traditional dances for the better is not difficult, and this message of acknowledging and dismantling harmful stereotypes in dance makes this book even more impactful.
❀ An Emotional Story
The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk is an emotional story of healing. I loved reading about the main character’s search for a new identity, and her character is refreshingly realistic. The discussions of racism in classical ballet are done with care, making this a powerful and eye-opening read.