About the Book
All Kendra wants to do is dance for the Manhattan Dance Company. So when her family’s forced to move to California, her dreams of auditioning are shattered. Still determined to dance, Kendra faces social isolation and family pressures in her new home. But when she’s diagnosed with a debilitating illness, Kendra must decide which dreams are worth fighting for.
For aspiring ballerina Kendra Sutton, dance is life. Kendra attends a special school that allows her to leave early for ballet classes, spends hours each day practicing in the studio and at home, and carefully considers the nutritional and caloric value of all her food before she eats it. She’s in training to audition for a coveted apprenticeship at the Manhattan Dance Company, a dream that’s threatened when her father announces that his job is requiring them to move from New York to California.
Despite Kendra’s protests, she and her family relocate to Napa Valley, where she must reconcile her city girl mentality with the new reality of farmland and rural living. She must also adjust to life in public school, where she’s picked on and misunderstood. Most challenging of all, Kendra must figure out a way to keep dancing on a pre-professional level and pursue her dreams of a future on the stage.
While struggling to come to terms with her new life, Kendra’s world is rocked by yet another setback: a diagnosis that jeopardizes not just her career as a dancer, but her life in general. This unexpected diagnosis forces Kendra to reevaluate her identity and think about her life in a whole new way. She’s a ballerina, but is that all she is? Is performing with the Manhattan Dance Company worth fighting for, or is there a different future in store for her?
I have to admit that when I first began reading The Strength of Ballerinas, I wasn’t fond of Kendra. She struck me as being rigid, stubborn, and unyielding. Her view of herself as a Spartan warrior and her mantra of “Endure! Resist! Achieve!” made her feel robotic and unrelatable, and I was convinced I wouldn’t like her.
As the story progressed, however, I began to view Kendra in a different light. The characteristics I’d originally perceived as flaws soon revealed themselves as her greatest strengths. What I’d initially seen as stubbornness and inflexibility were actually admirable dedication and discipline. Behind the Spartan spirit were the strength to keep forging ahead no matter what and a refusal to give up. I found myself developing a grudging respect for Kendra and her ability to meet any and all challenges she faced.
Readers who are ballerinas in fact, or even just at heart, will appreciate Lorenz’ debut novel. Those who aren’t familiar with the world of dance may find themselves frustrated by the abundance of ballet terminology, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a dancer to enjoy this book. There are a lot of other subplots here, like Kendra’s relationships with her family members.
Kendra’s brother Petey, for example, adds another dimension to the book. Petey is six years old and autistic, and Kendra devotes much of her time to caring for him. This is no easy task – simple acts such as combing Petey’s hair and getting him dressed take a great deal of time and effort. It doesn’t help that Petey shies away from human touch, occasionally throws tantrums, and rarely speaks or displays emotion. Still, Kendra genuinely loves her little brother. She volunteers at his school and guides him through therapeutic exercises to help him function on a higher level. She’s a great big sister, and I really admired this about her.
All in all, reading The Strength of Ballerinas was a great experience, one that I recommend. Kendra’s passion, perseverance, and love for her family make this book a success, as does the realistic and meaningful ending.
A free copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Nancy Lorenz currently teaches as an English adjunct at several colleges. She worked in publishing, public relations and in network television. She studied ballet in New York City at numerous studios, including open level classes at American Ballet Theater in the 1980’s, and continues to study ballet for the sheer love of it. She recommends that you love what you do, but also to branch out to the many subjects out there yet to discover. The more you learn, the more you can bring back into your art.
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