The Other Side of Perfect

Little, Brown/Poppy. May 2021. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316703406.
Gr 9 Up–Alina Keeler, who is half white and half Japanese, was born to be a professional ballerina and that is the only life she has ever known, until a devastating accident forces her out of the ballet world and back into normal high school. Dealing with her anger is only half the battle as she decides to branch out and make new friends and audition for the school musical Singin’ in the Rain. Alina’s new best friend Margot, who is half Mexican, is outspoken and just the right amount of pushy and it’s enough to help Alina consider leaving the past behind. Central to the story is Alina and her sister, Josie’s, relationship and the cultural discrimination in the ballet industry. Josie helps Alina see that Asian and Black dancers are represented falsely in traditional ballet narratives, and Josie’s dance school challenges this destructive history by providing a new look at characters in The Nutcracker. During this shift in worlds for Alina, she discovers love and heartbreak, how to reach out to her former ballet best friend, and how to tackle resentment with other emotions instead of anger.
VERDICT A strong portrayal of musical theater, ballet, the arts, and culture all merged into a coming-of-age story that will resonate with teens.

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