For fans of Sarah Dessen and Mary H.K. Choi, this lyrical and emotionally driven novel follows Alina, a young aspiring dancer who suffers a devastating injury and must face a world without ballet—as well as the darker side of her former dream. Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but then a terrifying fall shatters her leg—and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it. After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected—namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive castmate she just might be falling for. But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she experienced in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet—something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else? Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice.
The Other Side of PerfectFeatured
Now, she is attending regular high school, still mourning the loss of her ballet career. When a new friend pushes her to also try out for the musical, Alina is wary, but as she continues during the year, she begins to find the deepest wells of her grief and jealously. With friendship, sisterhood, and soul-searching, Alina may be able to come to the other side a complete person, even without the ballet she devoted her life to.
What I loved: This was an emotional read about grief and loss, in terms of losing things you love and coping with the fallout. There were also some really interesting other themes as well, such as racism in ballet (and outside of it), the power of supportive friends, all-consuming passion, and the importance of sibling relationships. I also really enjoyed the slow-building romances in the book (not just for Alina, but also for some of the side characters, particularly Harrison).
There are so many characters that I fell in love with during the story, and I appreciated all the character development that happens. When people get called out on things in this book, they generally show how to gracefully move forward. This is a really important skill. Although the story moved a little slowly at first, it captured Alina's emotions, particularly her depression and the difficulty in moving on, and the story became more immersive as it continued.
Final verdict: THE OTHER SIDE OF PERFECT is an intriguing and emotional read that features important and thought-provoking themes. Highly recommend for fans of SUPER FAKE LOVE SONG, DON'T DATE ROSA SANTOS, and THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE.