CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 2. . . .September 13, 2013
Cassandra Jordan, 14, has been accepted to the Pacific Coast Ballet Academy in Vancouver, BC. She is scared about leaving her family behind in Australia, but she knows the intense training will prepare her for a future in dance. The challenges start on her first day of class, but it’s not the dance lessons or the teachers that she’s worried about; it’s another dancer. Melissa is determined to destroy the confidence and reputation of every dancer competing against her for the role of Clara in the Nutcracker ballet. At first, Cassandra plays along with Melissa’s “games” because Melissa and Edie (her host family’s daughter) are best friends, but when she sees how much suffering they are causing, Cassandra refuses to participate. Her refusal to be bullied by Melissa causes her to lose friends, her good name, and her ability to dance (she sprains an ankle), but she remembers what she was taught about ballet, and she preservers. By the end of the summer classes, she proves to her teachers and herself that she has what it takes to become a ballerina – courage, dedication, and passion.
Ballet dancers will likely be familiar with the dance terms used in this story and be able to empathize with the main character’s problems, but my reservations about recommending this book tie in with Melissa. Not only is she not reprimanded for her bullying at the school (the teachers are only going to watch her), but she is chosen for the role of Clara. In addition, Melissa’s victims don’t tell the teachers (or their parents) the whole truth about the effects Melissa is having on their performances. The author indicates Melissa may be acting as she does because of her mother, but this does not excuse her behavior.
Recommended with reservations.
Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.