The Other Side of Perfect

Mariko Turk

The Other Side of Perfect
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The Other Side of Perfect

Mariko Turk

Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg - and her dreams of a ballet career along with it. After a summer spent healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and bingeing ballet videos on YouTube), she must trade her preprofessional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the musical.

Rehearsals are nothing compared to Alina’s past life at the acclaimed Kira Dobrow Ballet School. But the stage does offer more than she expected - namely her castmate Jude. He’s annoyingly attractive, ridiculously optimistic and, worst of all, Alina just might be falling for him.

However, finding a new normal means making peace with her past and acknowledging the racism she faced. Deep down, Alina still yearns for the world of ballet she left behind. But what does it mean to love something beautiful, yet broken? And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else?

Lyrical, romantic and peppered with humour, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change and the importance of raising your voice.

‘A captivating story of love, loss, identity and rediscovering your truth. Perfectly en pointe!’ Wai Chim, author of The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling 

Review

In Mariko Turk’s debut novel, The Other Side of Perfect, we follow the story of Alina Keeler, a Japanese–American ballet dancer. Alina lives and breathes ballet; dancing is part of who she is, not just what she does. Then, on the eve of a performance that could prove to be the next big step towards attaining her dreams, she shatters her leg, leaving her unable to ever dance en pointe again. Quite simply, her life’s ambition is over.

Six months later Alina has successfully isolated herself from everyone, even her best friend Colleen. Lost, angry and adrift, she is forced to return to high school as a full-time student for the first time ever. Her only ally at school, Margot, convinces her to try out for the musical, and despite her initial hesitation, Alina agrees thinking at least it will get her parents off her back. Unexpectedly she makes new friends through the musical, including Jude, who is annoyingly positive and enthusiastic, as well as kind of cute. Alina gains a new-found focus and a renewed understanding of who she is as she works to bring the musical together, causing her to question the dancer she used to be and the world she left behind.

This novel shines a light on the beauty of the ballet world, but also uncovers the darkness of misrepresentation and racism hidden within its traditions that need guidance towards change. An emotionally driven novel about healing and the fragility of perfectionism and ambition, The Other Side of Perfect explores themes of identity and learning to speak your truth. It is perfect for readers of Mary H.K. Choi and Wai Chim ages 12+.


Claire Atherfold is the manager and the children’s book buyer at Readings State Library.

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