Up To This Pointe: A MUST READ (Basically BAZAAM WAZILLY WHOOP!!!!)
I'm a voracious reader. I always have 2-3 different books going on my Nook. I have 2-3 books I'm reading next to my nightstand. I have another book stuffed in my backpack for subway reading. And there's always at least 1-2 books in progress in my office.
I read to learn new things. I read for fun. I read to learn more about things I already know. I read to discover. I read to see what's new and trending in kidlit. I read to experience new authors. I think being a good reader makes me a better writer. Reading and writing are intimately connected. Good reading teaches you a lot about language, about how to structure and pace a story, about how to build worlds that readers will fall in love with.
I love to be immersed in a new world with great characters. Hogwarts? I wanted to move there! Anne from Anne of Green Gables? I wanted to be her best friend (although I'm not really a Diana type). Artemis Fowl? I totally wanted to get into mischief with him. Katniss? I wanted to be Katniss (didn't we all?). So, I am always on the look out for great books that capture my imagination.
I love the kind of books that keep me up all night, reading long past my bedtime. I'm the proud owner of a flashlight that saw many, many all night under the cover reading sessions. Of course now that I'm a proper adult, I just keep the light on. I love books that are so great, I can't stop reading even if I'm walking. I read and walk at the same time (but only if I really, really love the story). I love books that make me miss my subway stop because I'm so into the story I forget where I am.
Up To This Pointe is that kind of book. Now, full disclosure: I write middle grade stuff and this blog is for middle grade readers and adults who are really kids at heart. If you're a middle grade reader, talk with your favorite adult about whether this book is a good choice for you. There is some more adulty stuff in it (specifically sex, alcohol, and leaving home. It's not a big part of the book, but it is still in there.). If it's not a good choice for you right now, no worries, you can save it for later! If you ARE ready for a great YA read, do NOT pass go! Make this your next all night, subway-stop-missing read!
Up To This Pointe follows the story of Harper who has spent her entire life working (really hard!) and planning for a career in ballet. She specifically plans to join the San Francisco Ballet Company. Well, she doesn't make it. This doesn't really spoil the book: it's kind of the point. Harper finds herself in a situation where she needs a new plan. That can be really, really hard.
Are you a planner? I am. I plan obsessively. Part of that is because I have a lot of things to juggle: writing, diving, and work. Part of that is because I like to know where I'm headed and how I'm going to get there. I don't always take the most direct path, but I do have a path in mind.
So, I can relate to Harper. She had a very concrete goal and dedicated her whole life to getting there. She leaped (quite beautifully and gracefully!) over obstacles like how to earn enough money to take ballet classes and how to work with her parents' demands that she finish high school first. She meets every challenge head on by staying focused and dedicated to her plan.
But sometimes, life doesn't go according to plan. So, when she doesn't get into the San Francisco Ballet Company, she hops a plane to Antarctica (I'll let you read to see how she manages that). I mean, if you're a relative of Robert Falcon Scott, famed Antarctic explorer, why not?
Okay, so without spoiling anything, here's why you should read this book:
1. It's really, really well written. What I mean by that is that you are going to fall in love with Harper, with ballet, and with Antarctica. You are going to believe that you are in San Francisco, the best city on earth. Then you're going to feel colder than you've ever felt before when your fingers shiver as you turn the pages while Harper is in Antarctica.
2. This book has one of the best premises I have ever read. Ballet + the Antarctic? Who would have ever thought of putting those two together? Well, Jennifer Longo did, and it's brilliant.
3. Penguins. Here's a little known secret that only my family and closest friends know. I find penguins creepy. I don't like how they waddle. It bugs me. They are (or wait for it--WERE) one of my least favorite animals. And then Harper. This book made me love penguins. I LOVE PENGUINS.
4. The ending. Okay, I have read so many books in my lifetime that I cannot possibly count them all. But, if I have one consistent complaint about books, it's usually the ending. I cannot tell you how many gazillion books I have read where I get to those last delicious pages where everything is going to be wrapped up and it's like a deflated balloon. I like to say that the writer didn't "earn" his or her ending. Not Jennifer Longo! I'm not going to give you any spoilers (because really, who LIKES PEOPLE WHO SPOIL THE ENDING TO BOOKS! MONSTERS! I BET THEY READ THE LAST PAGE OF THE BOOK FIRST TOO!).
The ending of this book is BAZAAM WAZILLY WHOOP! (I just made that up. Did you like it?). It's the perfect ending. It's so perfect that all writers should be required to study how she ended this book. It's AWESOME. (DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT SKIP TO THE END. WAIT FOR IT. READ THE WHOLE BOOK DELICIOUSLY FAST).
5. Harper. Harper is a great character and she's someone you're going to be at some point in your life. I think that's one of the big take aways from this book. We all have plans. We all plan. Even if you're not like Harper with THE PLAN for the future (she calls it THE PLAN) or like me with every possible planning app on your phone and computer to organize all of your plans, you still do or will have plans. And sometimes those plans fall through. That's one of the hardest moments in life. What happens when your plans aren't the plan anymore? Trust me. You want to go with Harper as she figures out what's next. You'll want to because you want to find out what Harper does, but also because they way she does it is really cool. She takes on her disappointment and her sadness as an opportunity to learn, to be, to do something new. And what she does with that discovery is really cool.
So, this is my first official "MUST READ" of 2016. Go forth and read! Let me know what you think!