Expected publication: February 14th 2012 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Series or stand-alone: Stand-alone
Source: e-ARC from NetGalley
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Trapped between the hormone-driven world of her friends and the discontent of her dysfunctional family, fourteen-year-old Georgia is only completely at ease when she's dancing. When she is accepted into Canada's preeminent ballet school, Georgia thinks it is the perfect escape. Artistic Director Roderick Allen singles her out as a star, subjecting her to increasingly intensive training, and Georgia obsesses about becoming the perfect, disciplined student.
But as she spends more and more time with Roderick, it's not so clear exactly what their relationship means. Is he her teacher and mentor, or is there something more? These blurred lines will threaten both Roderick's future at the academy and Georgia's ambitions as a ballerina.
Debut author Marsha Schabas catapults the reader into Georgia's world - the powerful, stressing, seductive world of the ballet. I took ballet for five years, so I remembered some of the terms, the positions, and the charged atmosphere of the dressing room before a performance, the jangling of nerves, the desire to be perfect. And - guilty pleasure time - Center Stage is one of my favorite films, so even though I read the synopsis of Various Positions before I began reading it, I was still expecting a very different sort of novel than what I quickly realized I was reading. I'd forgotten that Georgia is only 14 when the story begins, and truly, there were many moments, both awkward and mature, when I couldn't believe I was reading about a 14 year-old. Georgia's thoughts and phrasing sometimes seem implausible for such a young girl, and while I know that often times teenagers who've grown up quickly are far more wise than adults give them credit for, it just didn't feel believable in Various Positions. Georgia wasn't a totally reliable narrator - what she was seeing, and what was actually happening were, at times, two vastly different things. I ended up feeling sorry for her in a few portions of the novel, because between her experiences at ballet school and her home life, she was a pretty mixed-up teen.
Sometimes I really loved the writing style in Various Positions. Martha Schabas has a strong voice as a writer, and her turns of phrase were often clear and concise, while holding my attention. However, words were often repeated; I literally lost count of how many times someone's "bum" was brought into description. This is a physical book, but that started to grate on my nerves some. Also, the various secondary female characters were all too often described as "sex girls," and that was annoying after awhile. Georgia, shy and introverted for most of the story, decides she isn't going to be like them, but her methods to go in the opposite direction, combined with her excessive fantasies about Roderick, her instructor, were disturbing at times. Georgia is maturing, and her femininity is blossoming, but instead of discussing this with her mother, she starts exploring on her own terms, which leads her down a path she truly shouldn't be treading. Her obsession with Roderick was understandable at first, then almost stalker-ish in some moments. Georgia spends more time reading between the lines of his actions toward her than she does anything else, and the story, for me, started spinning out of control as this plot line went on.
I was also really disappointed in Georgia's home life. Her half-sister Isabel was incredibly fascinating, but sadly, we weren't given a great deal of scenes featuring her. I loved that Isabel was truly supportive of and worried for Georgia. Her parents were another matter. Georgia's father was distant throughout the entire novel, and her mother was, in my opinion, a terrible role model. When her parent's weren't fighting, Georgia's mother was laying around, doing nothing, or bemoaning her life. I wanted to shake her more than once, and I wanted to slap her father. Neither of them even bothered to notice what was going on with Georgia until the shoe fell in the end, and that was incredibly irritating.
Various Positions is both interesting and disturbing. The end of the book was completely unsatisfying for me. Georgia acts completely out of character as the climax of the novel approaches. The book DOES end on a somewhat hopeful note, though I think I expected more, after all that she went through - some character growth. There was a glimmer of that as the end neared, but I wanted - and needed - more. I kept looking for that "more" throughout the novel, but it just wasn't there for me. Various Positions is an intriguing yet flawed look at a teenager's self-awakening.
In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No money or compensation of any sort exchanged hands. I review books with no intention of monetary gain; rather, I review books out of my love of reading.