I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Turning by Joy L. Smith
Published by Denene Millner Books/Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on March 1, 2022
Genres: YA Contemporary
Source: the publisher
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In this raw, searingly honest debut young adult novel, a former aspiring ballerina must confront her past in order to move forward from a devastating fall that leaves her without the use of her legs.
Genie used to fouetté across the stage. Now the only thing she’s turning are the wheels to her wheelchair. Genie was the star pupil at her exclusive New York dance school, with a bright future and endless possibilities before her. Now that the future she’s spent years building toward has been snatched away, she can’t stand to be reminded of it—even if it means isolating herself from her best friends and her mother. The only wish this Genie has is to be left alone.
But then she meets Kyle, who also has a “used to be.” Kyle used to tumble and flip on a gymnastics mat, but a traumatic brain injury has sent him to the same physical therapist that Genie sees. With Kyle’s support, along with her best friend’s insistence that Genie’s time at the barre isn’t over yet, Genie starts to see a new path—one where she doesn’t have to be alone and she finally has the strength to heal from the past.
But healing also means confronting. Confronting the booze her mother, a recovering alcoholic, has been hiding under the kitchen sink; the ex-boyfriend who was there the night of the fall and won’t leave her alone; and Genie’s biggest, most terrifying secret: the fact that the accident may not have been so accidental after all.
This story had so many emotional grenades for not only the main character Genie, but also for her mom, her best friends, her ex-boyfriend, and her new friend Kyle. We don’t know every single detail of what led up to Genie becoming confined to a wheelchair and losing her dream of becoming a Prima Ballerina. The author feeds us little details as the story goes along, stringing us along one piece of the puzzle at a time.
It’s easy to understand why Genie is as hateful as she is to those around her. I mean she is a teenager who was in her prime before the accident. But one thing led to another, and she could just see the mistakes she was making and how they were similar to her mother’s, and she didn’t want to disappoint her mother, nor end up with any regrets like she did either. Yet it was some of the fact of how far she took things, even as a teen, that made it a little hard at times for me to have sympathy for her.
I feel like we might have needed maybe a bit more time spent with her dad, either flashbacks or new events occurring because while we get that her ex is like what her father was to her mother, it’d be nice to be shown that as more of the story. But oh did I want to smack her ex so many times when he would complain about how her accident affected him, yet he wasn’t paralyzed like she was. Again, the author did a perfect job of showing just what kind of a guy he was.
Genie’s handling of her friends was really frustrating for me at times as well as how she dealt with her mom. Again, I get it, teenager behavior with her mom. And the fact that her friends were getting to continue doing what she had loved and lived and breathed and could no longer do definitely made sense for why she avoided them. Even her lashing out, or just letting her sarcastic remarks out on her new friend Kyle or other people in that same circle, could be understood.
At the end of the story I was glad for what she had figured out, and I was definitely pleased with how her mom reacted to the news when Genie finally let her in. A wonderful story, one I can’t wait to share with the students at the school where I am a librarian.