The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk
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+.