Friday, February 3, 2012

Book Review: Various Positions by Martha Schabas

Title: Various Positions
Author: Martha Schabas
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (under Macmillan)
Source: NetGalley
Challenge: Debut Author's Challenge 2012, 2012 Netgalley Reading Challenge
Trapped between the hormone-driven world of her friends and the discontent of her dysfunctional family, fourteen-year-old Georgia is only completely at ease when she's dancing. When she is accepted into Canada's preeminent ballet school, Georgia thinks it is the perfect escape. Artistic Director Roderick Allen singles her out as a star, subjecting her to increasingly intensive training, and Georgia obsesses about becoming the perfect, disciplined student. But as she spends more and more time with Roderick, it's not so clear exactly what their relationship means. Is he her teacher and mentor, or is there something more? These blurred lines will threaten both Roderick's future at the academy and Georgia's ambitions as a ballerina.

Review

If you see something awful about to happen, you often find you can’t look away. I think that’s the most accurate way to explain just how I felt about Various Positions – the novel made me uncomfortable while I read, but I couldn’t set it down without finding out how it all ended. The novel asked me to start thinking about things, which is probably why I was able to stick with it all the way until the end.

The Character

We explore the entire novel through the eyes of Georgia Slade, the quintessentially restrained introvert. It often felt like she was living in a world of denial or a world she was making up inside her head. It was also frustrating to watch her give in to peer pressure over and over again; thankfully, she experiences a transformation and finally finds some courage in the end. The only thing I really could respect was her dedication to ballet, though I could never fully relate to her character.

The Story

Though it says so on the blurb, this book is not just about ballet. It focuses on various issues that can arise in the world of any teenager – body image, growing sexual awareness and parental problems, all set against a backdrop of ballet.

Actually, it is sex that is mentioned frequently in this novel, though the view of sex shifts back and forth from extremely naïve to surprisingly worldly. While becoming aware of your sexuality and the opposite gender is a normal part of growing up, I felt like sex and sexual urges were presented in an odd, alarming manner. If the story is to be taken as a sort of warning, then I guess I can let that bit pass.

Unfortunately, there appear to be no good relationships in the story, except maybe between Georgia and her half-sister Isabel. Seriously though, all the other relationships are disheartening, damaging and it just made me quite sad to read about them.

Personally, I say you should…

… be aware that there’s a lot of thoughts about sex and other issues in this novel should you choose to read it. It is in no way a light read, but if read with the right frame of mind, can serve as a starting point to think about how many issues, especially when it comes to body image, sex and familial relations, are addressed in real life.

13 comments:

  1. Great honest review. I still think I may give it a read. Ya know, when I find some spare time. haha. :) Hope you had a great weekend, lady!

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  2. Don't trust what you hear about this book. Everyone seems to either love it or hate it. I loved it, but I understand why it may not be for everyone. It is like seriously intense. Not a typical cutsey ballet book.

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  3. I've never heard of this one but it's really intriguing! PS. I looove the way you review and break it down!

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  4. Sharyla @ A Bookish WonderlandFebruary 6, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    This sounds really interesting. I've been known to pick up a book or two that made me squirm from being so uncomfortable. I think I'll be adding this to my wish list. Thanks!

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  5. First, I love the style of your reviews. The breakdown is totally my style.

    I was apprehensive to read this because of the ballet aspect, so I'm glad to hear it's more balanced than that and has other Big Issues going on as well.

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  6. I was so excited to receive an ARC of this book from ALA. However, since then I've read some things that just really surprise me about it. I'm not sure that I'm a) going to read it or that b) I'm in the frame of mind TO read it. I am just a little shocked that the main character is so young and is exploring so much sexually.

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  7. You did a great honest review considering what I've heard about the book. Sadly disappointed.

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  8. I think this book sounds interesting, but I've heard from a few people that it's a little more adult than young adult. I'm not sure whether I'll check it out, but it's interesting to see what you thought of it! Great review :)

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  9. Everyone seems to be a bit iffy on this book. I'm not sure if I'm going to take the time to read it or not. Thanks for the honest review!

    Renae @ Respiring Thoughts

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  10. Thanks for the warning about a sexy stuff. That tends to be a theme I steer away from for the most part. I'm not sure I'll be picking this one up, as you're not the only one who has mentioned this issue.

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  11. It's actually, surprisingly, less about ballet and more about a teen's experience in a high pressure world and with her first foray into sexual awareness. It's definitely interesting.

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  12. It's rather interesting though, but I think my initial description of it in the review is exactly what I think of it.

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  13. YES. That's the truth! I didn't know what to expect, but I wasn't too thrown for a loop, thankfully.

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Thanks for dropping by the blog today! I always appreciate reading your comments, and do my best to respond as quickly as I can.

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