Pointe, Claw
Pointe, Claw
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Annotation: After eight years of separation childhood best friends are reunited. One is studying to be a professional ballerina, the other has a rare disease that is rapidly taking its toll.
Catalog Number: #129401
Format: Library Binding
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 278 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-467-77591-6
ISBN 13: 978-1-467-77591-5
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2016006114
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
Childhood best friends until they were caught experimenting sexually and traumatically separated, Dawn and Jessie reconnect just as they begin to experience parallel dissociative episodes: Dawn in animalistic fugue states, ballet dancer Jessie taken over by an experimental, visceral choreography. Assured, immediate prose relates the freedom the girls discover in dissociation and the profound belonging they find in one another; ultimately, they're led to another wrenching parting.
Kirkus Reviews
Two teenage girls fight for their dreams and their sanity in this intense novel about the pressures society places on women to be perfect.Dawn, a 17-year-old white girl, copes with mysterious fugue states while enrolled in a prestigious online school program that guarantees her a spot in next year's Stanford freshman class; her former best friend Jessie, also white, dances in an elite Portland, Oregon, ballet school from which only two students will be selected to join the company. Unraveling the mystery behind the girls' broken friendship is part of the novel's driving force. Keyser uses animal imagery in both protagonists' alternating narratives to focus attention on the ways that society simultaneously exalts and denigrates women's bodies. The girls' hypervisibility and physical vulnerability are omnipresent, from the street-level windows through which male passers-by lasciviously watch the ballerinas perform to the impersonal manner in which doctors discuss Dawn's body in an effort to diagnose her. The narrative is appropriately dark, but the intensity of the physical imagery that juxtaposes human desire for control and animal primitiveness occasionally feels forced rather than the organic product of teenage thought and situations. The short, clipped sentence structure occasionally makes the girls sound too similar despite their differing personalities. A novel that despite its flaws viscerally evokes struggles of modern teenagers in a brutally authentic manner. (Fiction. 14-18)
Publishers Weekly
Jessie Vale studies ballet at a prestigious preprofessional program at the Ballet des Arts in Portland, Ore., and the 17-year-old has the blisters and bloody feet to show for it. Vadim Ivanov, the company-s principal male dancer, announces that he-s putting together his own piece, and Jessie has been chosen to be a part of it. Jessie initially chafes at the animalistic, avant-garde piece but soon begins to thrill to the adult Vadim-s attention and touch. Meanwhile, Jessie-s childhood friend Dawn struggles with increasingly severe blackouts and the strange pull of a captive bear. Jessie and Dawn-s separation at age nine was traumatic, and their reunion, initiated by Dawn-s mother, ushers in a metamorphosis for both young women. A former dancer, Keyser (The Way Back from Broken) deftly explores the bonds of love and friendship, and the grueling world of ballet. It-s easy to picture Jessie exploding in a riot of frenzied grace, and Dawn-s war with her own body and mind is heart wrenching. Alternating between Dawn and Jessie-s perspectives, Keyser-s writing shimmers with raw emotion and empathy, and her finale, much like in dance, is poetic, bittersweet, and life affirming. Ages 13-up. Agent: Fiona Kenshole, Transatlantic Literary. (Apr.)

Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Childhood friends Dawn and Jessie were inseparable until Dawn's family abruptly moved. Almost nine years later, Jessie is a dancer in Portland with hopes of being selected for the Ballet des Arts professional company. Dawn, meanwhile, is extremely intelligent but plagued by mysterious blackouts, from which she often awakens far from home, covered in dirt and blood, with no memory of what transpired. Between fruitless visits to specialists, the 17-year-old conducts scientific experiments on herself to try to understand what is happening to her. When Jessie learns her old friend lives nearby, the girls reconnect. As Dawn's episodes become more frequent, Jessie risks her own future by performing in an experimental ballet that forces her to tap into raw, unconstrained emotions. By embracing their animalistic side, both girls undergo liberating transformations that allow them to shed the restrictive expectations of society. Keyser draws upon her own background in dance and biology to create authentic protagonists, whose complicated family lives add further dimension to the narrative. It is a book of contrast and counterpoint, where scientific methodology accompanies nature's unpredictability, and the beauty of ballet exists as a result of grueling rehearsals. Lines blur as the story develops, save for the knife-sharp ferocity of two young women locked in an empowering duet that declares, "I am bigger than the skin that holds me."
Voice of Youth Advocates
Dawn and Jessie were friends until a traumatic separation at nine. They have gone separate ways; Jessie is striving to be good enough to be one of two ballerinas selected to be part of an elite professional company, while Dawn is enrolled in an online school where success means she is automatically accepted into Stanford. Both have their work cut out for them—both must be near-perfect to meet their goals. Jessie is constantly faced with body image issues and the pain of the sore, bloody feet that a serious ballerina suffers. Dawn needs to excel at school work but she keeps having strange black outs (waking up bruised and lost, “going dark”) that are becoming more frequent. Each specialist she sees is more patronizing than the last, finding nothing medically wrong. Dawn’s mother arranges for the girls to reconnect and that brings changes for both of them. They support each other, remember things long forgotten, and uncover a few secrets. The narration alternates between Dawn and Jessie. Animal imagery is used throughout both points of view: Dawn is drawn to a captive bear who makes her feel safe, and Jessie is working on a primal avant-garde dance that awakens her to a new side of herself. The opposition of the animal primitiveness to the controlled behavior each girl must maintain to succeed creates a tension that is palpable. There is language that some could find offensive, and topics such as menstruation and sexual relations that could make some readers uncomfortable. The book does not give up a happily-ever-after ending and it does not answer all the questions that arise. Readers will most likely be left feeling a little uncomfortable and confused, but they definitely will not forget this story quickly.—Susan Allen.
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 7-12
Lexile: 620L

Jessie Vale dances in an elite ballet program. She has to be perfect to land a spot with the professional company. When Jessie is cast in an animalistic avant-garde production, her careful composure cracks wide open. Meanwhile, her friend Dawn McCormick's world is full of holes. She wakes in strange places, bruised, battered, and unable to speak. The doctors are out of ideas. These childhood friends are both running out of time. At every turn, they crash into the many ways girls are watched, judged, used, and discarded. Should they play it safe or go feral? -- "Journal"

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