The Other Side of Perfect
Author: Mariko Turk
Pages: 336 pages
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: 11th May 2021
Rating: 5 Stars
Content Warning: protagonist is dealing with a lot of anger and some depression, various experiences of racism
Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one 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 cast mate she just might be falling for.
But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she had grown to accept 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.
Mariko Turk grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in creative writing. She received her PhD in English from the University of Florida, with a concentration in children’s literature. Currently, she works as a Writing Center consultant at the University of Colorado Boulder.
She lives in Colorado with her husband and baby daughter, where she enjoys tea, walks, and stories of all kinds.
Thanks to TBR and Beyond Tours and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC to review. You can check out the other posts here.
I have nothing but praise for this book! The Other Side of Perfect was a perfect read. I read it so quickly and was extremely hooked to the story.
‘Scars and steel don’t decide if you’re a dancer or not.’
I loved the themes of recovery and growth throughout this. The book begins with Alina in the hospital room where she is told she won’t ever be able to dance like she used to. This news completely shatters her hopes and dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer. This book deals with her feelings of anger, depression, and her other thoughts and feelings as she goes through this transition of trying to adjust to life without ballet. I thought the author dealt with this amazingly and I felt very attached to Alina’s journey and her emotional growth. After the first chapter, there is about a 5-month time jump, and Alina is attending her school for full days rather than half days for the first time. Her school friend Margot has encouraged her to try out for the school musical and she overcomes some fear of dancing again. It was heartbreaking to read that she had stopped replying to her best friend Colleen, as she was struggling to come to grasps with not being able to dance on pointe again.
‘Not everything is so broken it has to stay that way, Alina. Some things, you can fix.’
I really liked how this book was not solely about romance (even though I am a sucker for that), there were very important messages about racism in dance, and racism in general. Alina is Asian-American and by the end of the book she learns how to stand up for herself and call people out on their blatant racism. Alina had previously overlooked racism in dance because of her love for it, and it isn’t until she is out of that situation where she can truly reflect on her experience.
‘I should have kissed you when I wanted to kiss you.’
I loved the growing relationship between Alina and Jude, who is facing struggles of his own after his Dad left. This book is so much more than your average YA contemporary, and I am obsessed with it. I loved the messages throughout, and it made me feel very emotional. If you read any YA romance this year, make sure it is this one!
Let me know if you plan to read this!