All I knew about this book was what I gleaned from the cover: it was about ballet, and somehow, love and horror were involved. As the story opens, I had the distinct feeling that it was taking place sometime in the 1950s. When the main character spoke, the descriptions of the girls from the ballet school, the feel of the town – all of it seemed to be from a different era. Imagine my surprise when either an f-bomb or the mention of a cell phone was introduced (I don’t recall which). Shocked the senses, to say the least. Well, OK. We are absolutely in modern times. But still, there was something about it that reminded me of books from a bygone era.
Harley is home for the summer from college. He is the only of his friend group who left to go. He was supposed to leave this small town along with his then-girlfriend, Mairin. Mairin was always full of adventure, fun and a thirst for travel, but somehow her mother, a bitter and unhappy woman, guilted her into staying. Harley waited for Mairin to come to her senses, but when he returned she had already taken up with Smits, a local boy not known for his smarts, drive or temperance. And by then, Mairin was pregnant.
Always fascinated by the line of beautiful ballet girls that glided into town every summer, Harley noticed a new face among them. A beautiful girl who hadn’t gotten that snobby, cold look yet that the others had mastered. And when fate caused them to cross paths during a horrible storm, he was totally smitten. His friends certainly weren’t happy, though; there was always a divide between those at the ballet school who spent the rest of the year in New York City, and the townies, especially after local boy Teddy Flynn was found dead at the base of a tower on the ballet school’s property. No one who knew him believed that he had been drunk and fallen out the window, as was recorded as the official cause of death.
But Harley is totally taken with Cassandra, and though he knows that something bad happened between her and her last boyfriend, he knows he would never do anything to hurt her. In fact, that’s how all of the girls from the ballet school feel. But when Cassandra gets the role of Giselle and starts spending almost all of her time at the school, he starts to hear stories about other boys who stood in the way of a dancer’s career and suffered because of it. Cassandra then becomes the pet of the guest ballet teacher, a woman who had a brief relationship with Harley’s own father – and had tried to stab him.
There are strange things happening up at the school, to say the least. But he can’t stay away from Cassandra.
This story felt long and languid; like I was lying in a hammock, and a Southerner with a slow drawl was reading it out loud to me while I napped. The cursing, to be honest, felt weirdly out of place. And the action was there, but it felt like one of those dreams where you are running in place and trying to get somewhere but you have cinder blocks on your feet and you are in a pool full of Jell-O. This story needed to have more snap, like the sails on Harley’s boat; it needed to skim more lightly during the in-between parts and linger over the drama. The ending was a little lackluster, and even the title I found to be passive. For me, this pas de deux is more pas de dull.
Unlovely by Celeste Conway was published January 2, 2015, by Merit Press. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to the Publisher for their generosity.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary Thriller
Ages: 12 and up
COYER Scavenger Hunt #22: Read a book where dance is prominently featured. (2 points)