________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 21. . . .January 31, 2014


Warm Up. (Limelights).

Sara Leach.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2014.
118 pp., pbk., pdf & epub., $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0428-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0429-6 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0430-2 (epub).

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Stephanie Johnson.

**1/2 /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



She was late. She arrived at five minutes after four, and she didn’t have her leotard on yet.

Miss Carina’s face darkened when Jasmine walked in the door. The warm-up had already started. ‘One hundred crunches!’ she barked. ‘Twenty for each minute.’

Melanie and Felicity giggled.

Jasmine dropped her bag and glared at them, then lay down on the floor to start her crunches. A hundred was over the top. She’d only been five minutes late. But even worse was having her supposed friends laugh at her…At the end of a hundred, her muscles were screaming and sweat was dripping off her.

She took her place in the warm-up…As she did her battements, she could feel herself getting more and more angry. Miss Carina had it in for her. Melanie and Felicity were so mean. Hadn’t they ever been late to class? She was tempted to quit right then and there. But that would give all three of them what they wanted. No, she’d show them. She’d stick with it…Finally, the warm-up was over. ‘We’re going to start with the traveling scene again,’ Miss Carina said.

Great. The part she found hardest…

‘Five, six, seven, eight,” Miss Carina called.

Jasmine wasn’t sure if she remembered the steps. But she could hardly think about them anyway. Mostly she was thinking about how mad she was at Felicity. All of the anger went into her steps…

Miss Carina cut the music. ‘Jasmine! …You did it! That was the best I’ve ever seen you dance! So much emotion! So much anger!’

Jasmine could feel her mouth dropping open.


Jasmine is part of a competitive ballet team, and she loves the thrill that dancing brings to her life. Of late, this thrill has largely diminished as Jasmine’s team is preparing for a competition and their teacher, Miss Carina, is drilling them incessantly with new choreography and ideals of perfection. As the pressure builds, Jasmine struggles to keep up and begins to wonder why she loved dance in the first place. She receives constant critique about not putting enough emotion into her dancing, and on top of this, her teammates are quarreling and have quickly created a hostile rivalry amongst themselves.

     When Jasmine’s teacher confronts her and says that Jasmine should consider a different dance team, Jasmine is ready to quit. Dance is no longer fun, and she cannot stand to see how the team has torn her friends apart. Channeling her emotions into one dance practice, Jasmine puts on the performance of a lifetime and impresses her teacher and fellow teammates. Jasmine finally understands how to make her dancing convey emotion, and she is rewarded by being placed in a lead position. Jasmine’s newfound promise creates even more tension among the dance group which builds into a confrontation with Miss Carina. Will the girls be able to put aside their hurt feelings and dance together as a team once more?

      Warm Up is essentially your typical sports novel, albeit with ballet, but that is not to say it is not an entertaining read. This novel is most definitely aimed at females; in fact, I would say it is very unlikely that a male would pick up this novel, largely due to there being only one male character with an extremely insignificant (and unnecessary) role. The novel contains numerous action sequences which liven up the storyline, but these scenes are also quite specific and proved difficult to understand by someone unfamiliar with dance terminology. Perhaps if a reader is already familiar with ballet, she would enjoy these scenes much more.

      The storyline was quite small and constrained, focusing only on the ballet practices which lead up to a competition and, therefore, did not contain much else of Jasmine’s life. Occasional snippets into her life were provided, such as a visit with Jasmine’s Russian grandmother, but otherwise Jasmine seems to be a very one-dimensional character. As evidenced by the excerpt above, the writing style was a bit awkward as many sentences are extremely short which give the novel a more adolescent feel than was likely intended. On the other hand, the shortness of the lines adds a nice simplicity to the text that is not often felt in novels these days which are often overwrought with lengthy sentences.

      Overall, Warm Up was a fast-paced, enjoyable read that had you simultaneously resenting Jasmine’s teammates as well as cheering for the team to come together. Demonstrating perseverance and sportsmanship, this is a great read for girls interested in dance.


Stephanie Johnson is a graduate of the Master of Library and Information Studies Program from the University of Alberta and currently works at the Edmonton Public Library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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