Published by Carolrhoda Books
Published on April 1st 2017
Genres: Adolescence, Contemporary, Dance, Friendship, Performing Arts, Young Adult
Source: Walker Books Australia
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Jessie Vale dances in an elite ballet program that requires perfection to land a spot with the professional company. When she is cast in an animalistic avant garde production, her careful composure cracks wide open. Nothing has felt more dangerous.
Meanwhile, her friend Dawn McCormick's world is full of holes. She wakes in strange places, bruised, battered, and unable to speak. The doctors are out of ideas.
These childhood friends are both running out of time. Jessie has one shot at her ballet dream. Dawn's blackouts are getting worse. At every turn, they crash into the many ways girls are watched, judged, used, and discarded. Should they play it safe or go feral?
I received a copy of this book from Walker Books Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
What can I say about Pointe, Claw?
I’ll start with telling you why I wanted to read it. I love those books that are about performing, whether it be musicians, actors, or dancers. And Keyser is a former ballerina, an actual former performer who can tell it like it is – and she does. She knows intimately not just the moves in ballet but how each muscle works while doing them, and delivers it with the knowledge of someone who hasn’t just researched but lived it. This makes Jessie’s narration so believable and so easy to live in.
The same can be said for Dawn’s discussions on evolutionary biology. Keyser has taken two huge parts of her identity and given one to each of the main characters in this book so that once again, it’s doesn’t feel like research. It’s more than research when you literally write what you know.
I wanted to read a book about a strong female friendship and I’ll admit I was a little thrown when I discovered the girls’ friendship was somewhat more than that. I loved reading about how strongly the girls felt about each other back when they were children, and how they felt about each other now they were almost grown up. I liked how both girls came from broken homes and neither wanted to return to them. I liked how the voices of the girls were so distinct. It was a very well written book.
While the book seems a little light on plot, it does a good job of unraveling the questions that pop up. The best thing about this book, I feel, is Jessie’s sexual awakening at the hands of her ballet teacher, which very much reminded me of the Phantom of the Opera, the film version, where Gerard Butler is Emmy Rossum’s sexual awakening but Patrick Wilson is her romantic awakening. I very much expected them to have sex even though Jessie was underage. At the same time, Jessie is struggling with her feelings for Dawn that she’s had since they were kids.
The book is certainly about girl bodies and how other people try to control them. Jessie is learning a dance that feels dangerous because it is so un-classical. Dawn’s mother drags her from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose what is happening to her body. Strangers leer and drool over the thin ballerina with no chest, grope the girl who dresses like a boy to hide her flesh. Both girls initially fight their animalistic urges, and both, eventually, succumb, in choices that are purely theirs.
It’s kind of hard to say why I enjoyed this weird book so much. I wanted to read about a dancer and a girl who’s turning into a bear, and I got both: but I got so much more. I got a real dancer’s experience. I got sexual chemistry and an almost love triangle but not quite (seriously it is NOT a love triangle). I got friction between parents who don’t understand their daughters. I got girls fighting to control their bodies. I got an ending I’m still thinking about, that I think works, but still makes me a little sad.
I know I haven’t actually said very much about this book but I really enjoyed it and I think if you like feminism, performing arts stories, magical realism or just plain weird then you might enjoy it, too.