Title: Dancing in the DarkHe tossed her into the air as if she were weightless, and just for a moment she seemed suspended there, defying gravity. I couldn't take my eyes off her. I knew what she was feeling. It was in every movement of every limb.
Author: Robyn Bavati
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release date: February 8, 2013 (North American release)
Here was a power I had never seen before, a kind of haunting loveliness I had never imagined. Seeing it made me long for something, I didn't know what...
Ditty was born to dance, but she was also born Jewish. When her strictly religious parents won't let her take ballet lessons, Ditty starts to dance in secret. But for how long can she keep her two worlds apart? And at what cost?
A dramatic and moving story about a girl who follows her dream, and finds herself questioning everything she believes in.
Ditty Cohen comes from a strict Jewish household; she is a Haredi Jew, one of the most conservative branches of Judaism. One day, during a bout of rebellion, she discovers ballet and is instantly hooked. She dreams of taking ballet lessons and of a future as a performer. However, she knows her family would never allow her to do so. This story takes readers on Ditty's personal journey through the years, witnessing her struggle with family, faith, and her passion.
I need to start off and mention that it was so interesting to me that this was set in Australia, because everything was unfamiliar. Locations, seasons, how school years work and everything. I actually learned quite a bit of cultural information that I've never known about before.
I felt like I related to Ditty quite a bit, in terms of expectations while growing up. Not necessarily in a religious sense, though I have grown up in a religious household and still practice Roman Catholicism (quite progressively, mind you); going to mass, receiving the sacraments, etc. I've never personally felt the same pressures and lifestyle that Ditty had, but on a broader note, I feel like quite a lot of people can relate to her, in the sense that she had a dream that seemed far from her reach and she was willing to overcome everything that it took to get there. I admired her zeal. As for the other characters, I loved that there were no catty ones competing with Ditty in her ballet school. As if she needed any more people to come into conflict with. Everyone was supportive, very nice, and realistic.
The only issue I had with this book, which unfortunately stuck through the whole thing, was how negative the family came off. It wasn't even just the family, but the whole ultra-orthodox community. Almost everyone came off as brainwashed and it felt like the only way for Ditty to pursue her dreams was to have to leave her community. I'm not going to pretend like I know a lot about the different Jewish communities and how much Bavati's portrayal rings true, so I can't really expand on this. But reading that Bavati grew up Modern orthodox made me think that this was why it came off the way it did. Linda (Ditty's cousin who, like Bavati, was Modern orthodox) was very detailed in her arguments with Ditty and the latter could never really defend herself or her community. It felt pretty one-sided, which made me feel a little uncomfortable. As a reader, I really did sympathize with Ditty, which I'm sure was the intention. You want Ditty to succeed, to break free from whatever's holding her back, but at the same time I wish she tried a little harder to find some common ground with her Judaism.
Ultimately, this is a universal story about a girl with big dreams, and her journey in doing whatever it took to achieve it. I loved Ditty's transition as a dancer and that the story brought us through her entire experience from her discovery to finally being an actual performer. It sped through five years of her life, which could have made the story feel really rushed, especially considering the length of the novel, but it was done surprisingly well. It didn't drag on, and I felt like all the important pieces in Ditty's life were touched upon enough for the story to end the way it did.
A huge thank you to NetGalley and Flux Books for providing me with the ARC.
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