Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours, as well as the author and publisher for giving me a copy of ‘The Other Side of Perfect’ in exchange for an unbiased, and honest review!! This is my stop for the tour, and you can click the banner below to view the full schedule, and explore other posts!!
Title: The Other Side of Perfect
Author: Mariko Turk
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Young Adult Romance
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Final Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
For fans of Sarah Dessen and Mary H.K. Choi, this lyrical and emotionally driven YA follows Alina, an aspiring dancer who suffers a devastating injury and must face a world without ballet — as well as the darker side of her former dream.
Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but then a 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 castmate she just might be falling for.
But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she experienced 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.
My Interview with Mariko Turk, author of The Other Side of Perfect
Ahaana: Hi, Mariko! I’m so excited to have you here! For everyone who doesn’t know, could you please tell us something about your upcoming contemporary debut, The Other Side of Perfect?
Thanks so much for having me! The Other Side of Perfect is about a biracial ex-ballerina who falls in love and learns to fight systemic racism, all while rehearsing for a high school production of Singin’ in the Rain.
Ahaana: Describe your book completely in emojis!
Ahaana: What inspired your book, and how has it changed since that first draft?
It was inspired first and foremost by me breaking my leg doing ballet right after college. But it was also inspired by my complicated feelings about ballet. I love ballet, but I know it has its share of harmful aspects—like its lack of diversity and its reliance on racial stereotypes in many classical pieces. So I started wondering if ballet perpetuates these negative things, does that mean I shouldn’t love it? And if I do still love and support it, what does that mean about me? When I decided to try writing a YA novel, I imagined what would happen if a 16-year-old half-Japanese girl who dreamed of dancing professionally had a career-ending injury and had to deal with losing something she loved with all her heart and with wondering if she ever should have loved it in the first place.
And it’s changed a ton since the first draft! In the first draft, Alina handled things relatively easily. I think I felt so much for her situation that I wanted her to get through it without too much pain. But that was a pretty boring story. So over the course of many revisions, I thought honestly about how tumultuous Alina’s emotions would be in this situation, and how difficult—or impossible—the recovery process would seem to her at times. Once I let her have those messy feelings, the story began to feel more like a book.
Ahaana: Do you listen to any music while writing, or use any apps to help you focus, plan, or write?
I can’t listen to music when I write if it’s the only other noise because it distracts me. I basically either need it very quiet or very loud. I used to write a lot at cafés where the talking, music, and coffee-making sounds all combined into a nice white noise that would help me focus.
Ahaana: As you’re an #OwnVoices author for your book, what is one scene or quote from The Other Side of Perfect that you’re proud of, or is close to your heart?
One scene I loved writing is the scene where Alina learns her dancing duet with Jude during Singin’ in the Rain rehearsals. It features swoon and dancing and dorky teachers and it really made me reminisce about my own high school musical days.
Ahaana: After writing, and publishing such an AMAZING contemporary novel, we know you’re a great author!! What advice would you give to the rest of us also looking to write a book, or just wanting to write in general?
Thank you!! I would say don’t give up and just keep writing. I started so many books in the past that I never finished, and I thought I was never going to be able to see a book through from beginning to end. But then one day, I did! I think I was able to finally finish writing a book because I told myself I had to just keep writing. I couldn’t go back and fiddle with a sentence for the millionth time or rearrange paragraphs. I had to keep moving forward. That was the main thing that helped me finish The Other Side of Perfect. So my advice is to not give up, even if you struggle to finish what you’ve started.
About the Author
Mariko Turk grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in creative writing. She received her PhD in English from the University of Florida, with a concentration in children’s literature. Currently, she works as a Writing Center consultant at the University of Colorado Boulder.
She lives in Colorado with her husband and baby daughter, where she enjoys tea, walks, and stories of all kinds.