From Dance Moms star and So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation judge Maddie Ziegler comes the first novel in a brand-new middle grade trilogy about friendship, dance, and going after your dreams.
Twelve-year-old Harper has been dancing practically since she learned to walk. She loves her dance studio and team, and just won her first ever top junior solo in a regional competition. But right before the school year starts, Harper’s parents drop a bombshell—the family has to relocate from their cozy town in Connecticut to sunny Florida for their jobs. That means saying goodbye to her friends, dance team, trips to see shows in NYC—and did she mentioned dance team?
While her parents reassure her that they will find her a new studio as soon as they move, Harper is not happy. When she arrives, she realizes that the competition in Florida will be fierce and it doesn’t matter how talented she is—she is the new girl and will have to prove herself. During her very first class, Harper finds it harder than she thought it would be. Even though they are all the same age and have been dancing for roughly the same amount of time, it feels like everyone has better feet, quicker turns, and faster taps than Harper. And it doesn’t help that a group of girls, who nicknamed themselves The Bunheads, wonder how she made the team if she can’t even do a simple turn sequence in front of the class.
Thankfully, Harper befriends Lily, a fellow newbie in the studio who is just as eager to make her mark and find a friendly face. With a big competition coming up for the dance team, Harper is determined to show everyone—especially those Bunheads—what she’s made of! And when a very badly timed sprained ankle threatens all of the work they have done, the Bunheads, Lily, and Harper must learn to truly work together to give them their best shot at the top spot!
A tale that that will appeal to young kids particularly if they’ve been through a move themselves where they find their entire life uprooted.
Ziegler perfectly captured adolscent angst, mean girls syndrome and the competitive spirit that comes at this age when it seems like all that matters in life is the next big win.
It reminded me a bit of the spirit from the Bring it On movie series only about dancing instead of cheerleading. She provides lots of details so you get a feel for how dance classes go along with their competitions, types of costumes and the intense rivalry that is created under these circumstances. Even if you have little to no experience with the dance world Ziegler provides enough that you can still enjoy the plot, follow along with the characters and not get lost in the minutie. She even delves into the relationships between mothers and their dancers; everyone loves seeing moms trying to live through their kids.
It’s not a perfect story, at least from an adult’s point of view. The characters feel stereotypical but that didn’t stop the Bring it On story from becoming a franchise of six movies, a musical and even a book though it suffered from the same problem. As an adult I wish she had made the characters more diverse, given them a more well rounded set of interests and hopes but for the age group it’s directed towards I don’t think they’ll care.
If you have a dancing fan I’d recommend picking this up so they can enjoy diving into one of their favorite subjects.
Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for allowing me to review this!
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