The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk is a YA contemporary by a debut author published in May 2021. This book follows Alina, a high school junior who recently saw her dreams of becoming a professional ballerina disappear when she broke her leg. She is now back in high school full time and needs to figure out life after ballet. A new friend pushed her to audition for the high school musical Singing in the Rain. The book follows her life for most of the school year, making new friends, meeting a boy, figuring out if ballet still has a place in her life, and realizing some racial issues in the ballet community that she had been too focused on dancing previously to recognize.
This book was great and gave me so many memories of high school musicals. Alina’s story is really interesting and has so many parts to it, it had me hooked all the way through. I was between 4 and 5 stars but this is a debut and really made me miss high school drama club so I’m going with 5 stars.
Alina was a good main character and had a lot of facets to her personality. I didn’t like her that much at the beginning as she was really struggling and depressed and pushing people away (including me) but she didn’t like herself either. As she begins to figure out her life after ballet, she becomes a really well-rounded and strong character. Her friends and other side characters were also great and fleshed-out, they felt like kids I could have known in high school.
I thought the racial discussions in this book were handled really well. Having Alina look back and realize all of the ways ballet (and to some extent theater) had a lot of racial issues when she never realized it while she was doing it was really interesting and a fresh idea.
I said it before but the musical theater piece really brought me back to high school. The various personalities all reminded me of old classmates. The weird traditions weren’t my school’s weird traditions but I could totally see us having done these things too, they felt so real. The way auditions and rehearsals were structured was also perfect. It was a nostalgic read in that way that had me thinking about the musicals I did in high school. I didn’t have the same reaction to the ballet-lingo and scenes as I never did ballet but I imagine it would be similar.
The romance is cute, if predictable. I love a YA novel with a cute romance where that isn’t the central plot but a side plot and that’s exactly what I got.
This book won’t be for everyone but if you were a theater kid or did ballet, it’s worth picking up.