This was my first 2016-published book that I read, and it was a charming start to the publication year.
Harper Scott is a dedicated ballet student whoThis was my first 2016-published book that I read, and it was a charming start to the publication year.
Harper Scott is a dedicated ballet student whose sole goal in life is to be in the San Francisco Ballet with her best friend Kate. Then her plans fall apart, and Harper ends up as a research assistant in Antarctica, having run as far away as she can from her problems.
Longo got Harper's friendship/rivalry with Kate exactly right. They are best friends who share a love for a hyper-competitive sport. While Harper is passionate about ballet, Kate has the natural talent and body type. The San Francisco storyline (the "flashback" storyline) was by far the most interesting to me, because of the Harper/Kate dynamic. Their friendship is the true heart of the story. I was far, far more emotionally invested in their friendship than either of Harper's romances. While I was sympathetic to Harper's romantic woes, I was mostly emotionally detached from them. But Kate and Harper dealing with perceived betrayals broke my heart. It was therefore extremely frustrating when Kate/Harper became a minor storyline in the second half of the book. In fact, Harper refuses to talk to Kate while she is in Antarctica. And when Harper eventually returns to San Francisco, is the focus on the friendship? Nope. It's on the bland romantic interest. We don't even get to witness the Kate/Harper reunion!!
Harper's romances were so boring, it felt like they were included by publisher mandate. Owen is the hot, smart, sweet guy that Harper starts falling for in San Francisco just as her world is falling apart. It's insta-love, and his blind devotion to Harper even when she runs off to Antarctica and goes no contact with him is eye-rolling. Especially since they had only known each other for a few months. Such loyalty only occurs in novels and real-life doormats.
Owen's loyalty is utterly unrewarded, too, since in Antarctica Harper hooks up with a charming Irishman named Aidan. It's unclear if Aidan actually has feelings for Harper, or if she's just the only willing female in his age range in Antarctica. Aidan is the type to make grand romantic gestures, but disappear when he gets bored. It's not clear if Owen and Harper were on a break while she was in Antarctica, if they were not exclusive, or if Harper was cheating on Owen. It's not even clear if Harper knows. But it makes Owen's puppy-like devotion to Harper even more pathetic. Owen seems like such a great guy, I honestly was rooting for him to break up with Harper and move on to someone who wouldn't run away and ignore him for six months while she made out with another guy.
While the romances felt distracting and unnecessary, the rest of the book was very strong. As I've said, the Kate/Harper friendship was the best part of the book. I also thought Harper's struggle with losing her entire vision of the future was realistic and well-handled. Harper's relationship with her adorable babysitting charge/ballet student, Willa, was cute and touching. Willa's email begging Harper to come back was heartbreaking. I also loved Antarctica as the setting - it's the first time I think I've read a YA set there. Finally, Harper's character growth and her interactions with pretty much everyone but her love interests were well-handled. Overall, it was a strong book, even if it did not contain nearly enough focus on Kate/Harper. ...more