Jessie (Ageless Pages Reviews)'s Reviews > Various Positions

Various Positions by Martha Schabas
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That was... odd. Weird. Uncomfortable. Utterly not what I thought I was getting: a book about ballet dancers at an exclusive academy. This made me think quite often of last year's movie Black Swan except the whole thing where ballet is not the focus at all: the sexualized teacher-student relationship, the unhealthy obsession with food and thinness, the messed-up family dynamic at home. This is not a dance book at all: this is a book masquerading as dance book, and probably even masquerading as YA as far as I'm concerned. Now, at a second glance, having read this, even the title seems like a double entendre - and not one I like.

Georgia's fixation on her ballet instructor is as unsettling as it is perplexing. Georgia is supposedly a 14-year old girl, or a Grade 9 at the academy at which she studies. Interestingly, Various Positions reads nothing like a 14-year-old girl: far too mature-sounding (especially as Georgia is very, very naive), far too educated, this reads like the thoughts of a twentysomething. Basically: Georgia expresses herself beyond the capabilties of her years: it feels false, and it was quite jarring to read about (view spoiler) I don't have an issue with the sexual aspect, or even the fact that there is a lot of focus sex within the book: sex is natural, part of every teen's life. What I do mind is how Georgia relates to all of the above. It's not believable, nor I think, accurate. I also have large issues with the message sent about girls that do have sex.

There are absolutely no healthy relationships between the characters of Various Positions. None - strained? Check. Full-out dysfunctional? Check. Secretive/mysterious? Check. Shady? Checkcheckcheck. Siblings, parents, friends: all Georgia's interactions are limited by her immaturity and her selfishness. Georgia cares about Georgia, and dance and how Georgia looks while dancing. She has zero friends: the closest she comes is a charter "named" Laura. Named is in quotes because all through the novel, she is never called anything by the narrator other than her audition number from the first chapter - Sixty. Georgia's interpersonal skills are so underdeveloped she frequently and alarmingly misinterprets many actions of many, many characters throughout the book. From a man on the subway, to her dad, to her teacher, Georgia is too naive to understand basic human interaction. Georgia's parents might lend an interesting perspective on her fixation on her teacher: as Georgia slowly realizes the similar patterns between her parents history and her current situation, her delusions/justifications become intensified and more urgent. It's also easy to point out Georgia has a strained relationship with father/father-figures, as her own dad is controlling, demeaning, distant father - an attitude mirrored in Roderick's approach to Georgia at the school. I just wish either Georgia had been aged up a bit, or all the sexual undertones and themes could've been toned down. It just really didn't work for such a young protagonist (view spoiler).

The other ballerinas, though largely ignored so much as to be set pieces, are a piece of work. From an unhealthy and uncomfortable focus on weight - one girl, one of the few to receive their own name, is outcast and shunned because she has thicker thighs! - made it hard for me to like anyone from this 300+ page book. The repeated and recurring label of "sex girls" versus virgins/prudes to distinguish within the group also set me off a bit; here to Georgia, to Roderick, ballet is art, utterly asexual and anyone that dares own her femininity is a "sex girl" and deserving of any and all bad things sure to come her way.

This is just an odd read. Two stars for now, but it could possibly go lower the longer I think about this and just why I was so disquieted while reading. Those looking for a light YA read about ballet, look elsewere. I've added Bunheads as an alternative option in my search for a good ballet book; Various Positions missed the mark. I've had a hate-on for this for several paragraphs so I will say this: not all is bad or uncomfortable in Various Positions. The writing itself is deceptively easy to sink in; though not much happens at all throughout, this is never a boring read. I'm sad that this ended up to be such a disappointment, but this wasn't the book I thought I was getting, and I disliked the book it was.
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Reading Progress

01/15/2012 page 63
01/17/2012 page 300
82.0% "Georgia is obsessive and naive, Roderick is creepy. After 300 pages, that's all that's happened. . . ."
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Arminzerella Exactly. Thanks for putting that so well.

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) No problem. :) I keep looking for a good ballet book, but so far, no luck.

Arminzerella Me, too. That and summer camp. :)

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) Yes! Why is it so hard to find well-crafted YA about summer camps and dancing? OR dancing summer camps? ;)

Arminzerella Bunheads (Sophie Flack) was a better ballet choice. A well-executed novel about dancing summer camps would blow my mind. already has a niche market of 2.

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) Ooh, that's good to know. I've had my eye on it but haven't seen much on it either way.

And someone has totally written that novel for us, somewhere out in the wide world. We just gotta find it!

Arminzerella Maybe that's the one we should try to write! I'll get started now.

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