Review: Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Stasia Ward Kehoe Audition

458 pp. Viking Juvenile (Penguin Group)  2011

Interest: 2011 Debut Author / Verse Novel / HS Book Club Choice

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): When high school junior Sara wins a coveted scholarship to study ballet, she must sacrifice everything for her new life as a professional dancer-in-training. Living in a strange city with a host family, she’s deeply lonely-until she falls into the arms of Remington, a choreographer in his early twenties. At first, she loves being Rem’s muse, but as she discovers a surprising passion for writing, she begins to question whether she’s chosen the right path. Is Rem using her, or is it the other way around? And is dancing still her dream, or does she need something more? This debut novel in verse is as intense and romantic as it is eloquent.

I’ve always admired dancers.  They’re athletic, graceful, hard workers and more.  Before this year I haven’t read any novels with main characters that are dancers.  Not only do has Audition released in 2011, but there’s also Bunheads by Sophie Flack and Ellen Hopkins’ newest novel, Perfect has a main character that dances.  My dancers in class will be happy to see these new additions to YA, as am I.

Stasia Ward Kehoe grew up as a dancer, so I can imagine Audition was a very personal novel to write.  Her expertise in dance is evident in how articulate she is in the language of dance.  I, not being a dancer, didn’t understand all of the terminology, but I did appreciate it and respect it.  Ballet dancers reading this novel will certainly appreciate Stasia Ward Kehoe’s expertise.  Not only does she use correct terminology, Audition is full of beautiful imagery and scenes.  Even with my limited knowledge of ballet I was able to picture the dancing and the dancers.

I’m a huge fan of verse novels, so I was really looking forward to reading Audition (besides it being about ballet).  The students in my book club chose this as our next novel after I told them about it, and most of them started it before me.  For one of the girls, this was her first verse novel and she told me she was struggling with it.  She wasn’t sure if it’s simply because she’s not used to verse, or if the verse was just choppy.  I kept this in mind while reading Audition, and for the most part I enjoyed the verse.  As I read more of the book I began to notice that many of the scenes and the writing are choppy.  Sara would be describing a scene at the studio, and then on the next page we were back at the house or with Rem.  These sudden changes in setting are jarring and caused me to re-read more pages than I cared to.  The verse isn’t always as fluid as I prefer, but I still enjoyed Stasia Ward Kehoe’s writing and will read more of her novels.

The story is about Sara and how she’s basically thrown into this new life of dancing.  She’s from a small town and is a promising dancer.  After she scores well at an audition, she is accepted at a dancing school at the Jersey Ballet.  Sara goes through a whirlwind of emotions during this transition and is really unsure of herself as a dancer and who she is outside of dance.  Eventually Sara isn’t sure if she wants to continue dancing, if this is really her dream.  Readers will appreciate Sara’s hesitation whether they’re a dancer or not, because many of us face these decisions in our lives.  Who are we?  What do we want to do with our lives?  Will our choices let down our family?  In the midst of this, Sara falls for Remington.  While I appreciated Sara’s angst about ballet, I simply couldn’t connect with her relationship with Rem.  Sara and Rem have a fast infatuation that never really made sense to me.  Part of this may be the fact that Rem really doesn’t have much dialogue–he and Sara don’t do much talking.  This is mostly because of the nature of their relationship, but also because the scenes with Rem focus more on Sara’s thoughts.  I understand the reasoning for this, but it also caused these scenes to fall flat for me.  As a result, Audition didn’t become the book I wanted it to be.

I’m looking forward to hearing my students’ thoughts, especially after seeing the different ratings they’ve been giving it on Goodreads.  Audition is one that I enjoyed, and even though some areas were weak, it’s a book that I still think others should read.

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