** spoiler alert **
I remember reading this when I was a kid and thinking it was amazing. Now that I am a bellydancer myself, I chased it down secondhand through amazon marketplace. Unfortunately it didn't live up to my memory of it.
The premise is valid: a curvy girl is forced to go to aerobics classes with her mother as she is obsessed with her daughter's weight. While at the rec centre, Sandy (the daughter) stumbles across a bellydance class, and gives it a shot agaist her mother's wishes. She meets and falls in love with the drum player in the class, and with the help of a jingly coin-covered costume, magically becomes a fabulous bellydancer in about three lessons.
While there's some nice exploration of Jewish culture and how it contrasts with Arab culture, most of the characters are cardboard cutouts. Sandy (Sadzia) is a typical teen who is beginning to chafe under her mother's thumb and starts to rebel. The mother, an entirely unsympathetic character, is obsessive and a shrew. Dad is almost entirely absent until almost the climax of the novel. Samir, the attractive tabla player, is handsome and nice, and pretty much slavishly adores everything Sandy does.
As a dancer, I had issues with the way the dance was portrayed. There was many mentions of it being "sexy" and how husbands love it when you turn down the lights and dance for him privately. Eeek! How many ballet or salsa dancers have this to contend with?
At least Sandy is shown to practise a lot, but nevertheless, after a single lesson on "hip lifts", everyone thinks she's been dancing for years. After two lessons, Samir tells her how she is already an amazing dancer and after three, she is ready to teach other people and perform in public! Maybe it was just that the novel was so short, but this progression was more than a little unbelievable.
Since there are so few novels about bellydancers around, if you are a dancer you might like to read it, but it does give unrealistic and very dated impressions of the dance. In terms of a young adult coming of age story, it does follow the formula, but doesn't add terribly much to the genre.