Up to This Pointe
Source: Netgalley, e-ARC
She had a plan. It went south.
Harper is a dancer. She and her best friend, Kate, have one goal: becoming professional ballerinas. And Harper won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of The Plan, not even the boy she and Kate are both drawn to.
Harper is a Scott. She’s related to Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who died racing to the South Pole. So when Harper’s life takes an unexpected turn, she finagles (read: lies) her way to the icy dark of McMurdo Station . . . in Antarctica. Extreme, but somehow fitting—apparently she has always been in the dark, dancing on ice this whole time. And no one warned her. Not her family, not her best friend, not even the boy who has somehow found a way into her heart.
This might contain spoilers, but I thought the reason for why Harper wound up in Antarctica was obvious from the synopsis alone, so I’m going to talk about that within my review.
I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary YA. I used to be way more into when I was a teenager myself, but now I often find that I feel way too removed from the trials of being a teenager that it doesn’t end up working. So I was very pleasantly surprised by this novel.
I am secretly obsessed with ballet, even though I only took lessons for 2 years when I was 5. There aren’t too many books that are about ballet, but I am always looking for more. Up to This Pointe, isn’t exactly really about ballet, but more about the dancer and what happens when the plan you worked for your entire life is dashed right before your eyes.
Harper and her best friend Kate have had a plan in place since they were young. They are both going to dance with the San Francisco Ballet after graduating high school. Except, as Harper soon learns, although she has more love for ballet than possibly anything else in her life, she does not have the skill to make it as a professional dancer. She feels an obvious sense of loss and confusion and ends up running away to Antarctica to figure out what to do next.
Before I go into anything else, I want to talk about the fact that NO ONE, especially her ballet teacher, tells Harper that she does not have the talent to make it as a ballet dancer until it almost too late. Her teacher waits until a few weeks before the audition to break it to her that there is no way she would ever be picked up by a company. Now, that might seem harsh, and it is, but that’s ballet. And this should have been relayed to Harper years before the story takes place. She probably would have still auditioned, because that’s just who she is (and she still does) but at least she would have had years, not weeks to come to terms with the fact that she will probably not be selected. It just made me angry, and doesn’t seem realistic that a ballet teacher wouldn’t have informed her of this.
I liked Harper. I loved her love for ballet, her students and her city. This book was a beautiful homage to San Francisco. I understand her need to go away to find herself after such a devastating loss. But I think the best part of this book was the friendships. SO MANY FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS. Kate, Vivian and Charlotte are the main women that Harper interacts with and each relationship was different, and I think wonderfully portrayed. The friendship with Vivian might have been a bit rushed, but I still really enjoyed it. And there was a moment where I really hated Kate, but for the most part I understand her as well (I, personally, wouldn’t have forgiven her for saying what she did, but that is just me and I’m petty and I can hold a fantastic grudge). The relationships weren’t always perfect, but they were realistic and that means a lot more.
Another plus was the family relationships portrayed in this book. A huge hell yeah for present and pretty awesome parents and a positive sibling relationship.
The romance, although not really entirely a love triangle, wasn’t my favorite part, but I’m really happy with how it ended. It might seem like it, but I don’t think the romance was even really a huge focus of the story. A lot of it was just Harper trying to figure shit out and what to do now that she can’t be a dancer. The answer was right in front of her all along and I’m happy with the ending.
There are just some things that weren’t fully addressed and I have some issues with. As a dancer (and one who wants to be a professional), Harper obviously has to retain the right body weight (I say obviously because ballet is brutal). She is constantly dieting, and there were some points where it seemed extremely close to anorexia. If it’s not anorexia, she has some serious issues with food and eating and they were hardly addressed. Also, what’s with her nails always being blue (not painted blue, just blue). Does she just have bad circulation? Is it because of her weight? WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS BLUE? You tell me this but don’t explain it.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading it. A win for contemporary YA, which I haven’t had the best of luck with recently!