Book Review Series: The Strength of Ballerinas
The Strength of Ballerinas by Nancy Lorenz is a charming story that I enjoyed mostly curled up under a blanket with a cup of tea. The author’s beautiful writing style instantly brings the reader into the heart and mind of a passionate sixteen-year-old ballerina. This book brought me back to my own youth, as I identified with the main character Kendra, a perfectionistic teenage girl with body image issues who wants to keep her problems to herself and do it all on her own.
Kendra has her life laid out before her and knows exactly what she wants. She is disciplined and dedicated to only one path, dancing for the Manhatten Dance Company as a professional ballerina. In her daily life, she is surrounded by mirrors which each give her a different image of herself. Which one is telling the truth? She worries about the mirrors that make her look less than perfect. She is disciplined in her dancing, counts her calories obsessively, and is absolutely dedicated to her goal.
Then, through a series of events, her goal becomes less and less achievable. She is forced to look inward and really decide what her true calling in life will be. As she is removed from her familiar life and turned into an outsider, she must learn to be her authentic self in the face of reviling peers. The themes that arise in this hero’s journey are pertinent to the life of a teenage girl, and really to anyone. Kendra learns to accept what is while still fighting to be all that she can be. She discovers the complexity of people, that there is always more inside than shows on the outside. “Appearances could be deceptive, like those mirrors that reflected my body image every day in ballet class. On the outside, I looked like an aspiring dancer, but on the inside, I was sick.” (Pg. 225) Most of all, Kendra learns what true belonging is. She learns to trust herself and others. She learns how to use her talents to help others.
This book is very relatable because of the human struggle. Kendra teaches us that overcoming the struggle requires a person to listen to her/his own heart. Outside sources of authority can’t tell us what we should do or be. Often the outside sources point to a success that doesn’t align with what feels like true success for Kendra. Along her path to happiness, she discovers that love and service are a vital and meaningful part of her life journey.
Complete with a sweet and feminist-friendly romance, this book was entertaining, uplifting, and thought-provoking. I would be happy to have my daughters read this book as teenagers. In a world where image seems to matter so much and perfection seems to be the goal, it is nice to have a message about the value of being imperfect. It’s a beautiful message about love, service, and authenticity shattering the glass that reflects an incomplete image to the world.
This is a part of the Exponent Book Review Series and Cyber Monday Giveaway. By making a thoughtful comment on this post, subscribing to the Exponent, or making a donation to Exponent II by sending a PayPal donation to trea…@exponentii.org, you will be entered into a drawing to win one of many books being reviewed! Check the intro post for information and terms. Entries accepted until the 5th of December 2015.