the other side of perfect – mariko turk | blog tour + arc review

The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk


Standalone
Expected publication: May 11th 2021 by Poppy
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, LGBT
Representation: Japanese-American MC, Black SC, Latinx SC, side m/m relationship

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis:

Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg–and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it. 

After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected–namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive cast mate she just might be falling for. 

But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she had grown to accept in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet–something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else? 

Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice. 

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Indigo | IndieBound

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Thank you to TBR and Beyond Tour for choosing me as one of the participants in #TheOtherSideofPerfect tour. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. If you’re interested in the other tour stops, check out the schedule!

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trigger and content warnings:
  • protagonist is dealing with a lot of anger and some depression, various experiences of racism

Alina Keeler’s life is in shambles the day her leg is shattered. Right from the prologue, it was just waves of upsetting emotions from Alina. She doesn’t know who she is without ballet when it had been her everything her whole life. No longer able to be a professional ballerina, Alina needs to adjust to being a regular school teen.

Confronting her fear head-on was never an option. Afraid of what life means now, Alina rejected all kinds of possibilities. She wallowed in her own room eating chips and watching ballet clips during the summer and refused to connect with anyone properly. Even though she made friends with Margot, Ethan and Jude, she didn’t want to be too close so she opted out from meeting them outside of school and refusing to talk anything personal including her past with ballet.

While Alina reflects upon her time with ballet, she slowly recognized the embedded racism in something that she loved wholeheartedly. Never was Alina and Colleen, her best friend, chosen for the main parts in performances despite being perfect for the roles. Even when they questioned their instructor, the answer would always be because the girls are lacking in some ways and never that because of the color of their skins. I liked that she gradually started to develop her own opinion about the racism that she faced in ballet.

I still loved ballet, but it didn’t love me back. All I could do was linger on, like a sad, rejected ghost, hurting people who didn’t deserve it.

The romance was definitely adorable. Jude’s the most sensitive, charming, and gentlest boy ever. It’s not a surprise that Alina would fall for him. What’s unexpected is how easily Alina could talk to Jude about her injury and the devastating consequences of her fall. His responses to her anxiousness and fear are adorable and sweet. Beneath his happy-go-lucky and sunshine disposition, Jude struggles with issues around his father who had been quite absent in his life and has all sorts of “manly” expectations such as wanting Jude to play lacrosse instead of being in a school theatre.

As Alina befriends Margot, Ethan, and Jude, she struggles with her jealousy towards Colleen, who she had been avoiding for months. While Colleen strives further into her ballet career, Alina’s stuck in the past unable to move on without being fully happy for her best friend.

We cried because doing something brave didn’t always make you feel brave. We cried because fixing things was hard, and change was slow. We cried for all the ways the loving something with all your heart can break it at the same time.

Not only did The Other Side of Perfect focused on Alina creating different types of bonds with people, but it also highlighted the sibling relationship with Josie. Due to her hectic schedule as a ballerina in the past, Alina never really spent time with her younger sister. Now, she realizes how much she doesn’t know about Josie’s life and found herself blowing up on Josie more than before. I really liked how the sisters slowly grew closer with Josie being really straightforward about what she thoughts while Alina paid more attention to Josie.

Alina’s inability to cope with her shattered dream was painful and devastating to read. It must be such an unbearable experience. Despite her harsh words and refusal to be close to others, I liked Alina’s sense of self-awareness. She realized that everyone was being unfair to Diya, that she was being explosive of some of her closest people, and that she should call out the racism in ballet.

Her healing journey is an arduous and upsetting one in the beginning. However, Alina finds acceptance and courage eventually. Mariko Turk’s writing highlights the pain, unjust and anger that Alina experienced but also, brought out hope and light as Alina regains her courage and strength.

☾☾☾☾☾☾

author information

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