Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review: Pointe

Pointe by Brandy Colbert. G.P. Putnam's Sons, an Imprint of Penguin Group (USA). 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: Theo's life is in a good place. Some would say a very good place. She's one of the top ballet dancers in her class. She has good friends and a boy who is interested in her. The heartache and problems of the past -- the breakup with her first love, her best friend disappearing and feared dead, her parents' overreaction to Theo's resulting depression and eating issues -- are in the past.

The past comes back, fast and furious.

Donovan is found. Alive. It's been four years and Donovan is alive and coming home. Relief and joy and tinged with something else: fear.

Because Theo recognizes the face of Donovan's kidnapper. She knew him by a different name, but she knew him.

He was the boy she loved, the person who broke her heart when he left her. It's the same man.

Everything Theo thought she knew, about Donovan, about her old boyfriend, about herself, is about to be turned inside out. At least she still has ballet, but how long will that last, when people find out?

The Good: The Good? Everything. Everything is good.

Theo is such a complex, amazing, interesting young woman.

Readers of this blog may remember, I like to keep notes as I read -- I sketch family trees and timelines, jot down ages and names. As I'm sketching this out while reading Pointe, I realize what Theo does not. Oh, I also realize it because I'm old, a grown up, I'm not a teenager. When Theo was with her first love, Trent, the person she loves and believes was wonderful, Theo was thirteen. And Trent was eighteen.

Theo was crushed when Trent disappeared on her, and had few people to confide in because there were so few people who knew about Theo and Trent. Donovan was the only person, actually, who knew. Now that Donovan has been found, Theo learns not just that Donovan was with Trent, but that Trent's real name is Christopher. And that he's thirty. Which means that not only did he lie to her about his name, he also lied about his age: instead of being eighteen, he was twenty-six. And she was thirteen.

And here is one reason I just flat out adored Theo: through all this, she's thinking "what about me" and "what does this mean to me." She dances around what all this means to Donovan, wondering mostly if Donovan ran away with Christopher and voluntarily stayed with him.

Part of what I loved about Pointe was how long it takes Theo to come to the place that you, the reader, does.

What Theo had wasn't love; it never was. But her love for Trent (well, Christopher) was such a part of Theo's identity, that she just cannot look at the facts, the numbers -- she has to deal with the emotions. Her love. And because she has to believe that what she had was real, when she looks at Donovan she believes about him what she believes about herself: that the then-thirteen year old Donovan had a choice, a choice about being with and staying with Christopher.

Donovan has been silent since his return home, not leaving his house, not talking to anyone, including Theo. No one knows Theo's secret. And part of Theo is very happy -- and very relieved -- at Donovan's silence.

From the outside, Theo looks put together and strong. You'd have to be, to become such a talented dancer. Pointe is clear about the dedication it takes to reach the place that Theo is now at. The reality? Then, she was a thirteen year old girl swayed by the attentions of an older boy, wanting to be loved, wanting to make him happy. Now, it turns out, is not that much better. Hosea, the boy she likes, is her age, goes to her school, but, in addition to being the local drug dealer, is dating someone else.

Theo doesn't quite realize the parallels between the two loves of her life. Oh, the present boy is age-appropriate and also power-appropriate. They are equals. Which means that what the present relationship shows the reader is what Theo thinks is mutual affection and respect and love; what she'll put up in order to get what she thinks is love; what she'll settle for.

As you can see from all those paragraphs, what intrigues me the most about Pointe is the relationships and emotional journey of Theo. There is so much more! Hosea, for example, is a fully realized character, and may be the nicest, sweetest, drug dealer cheater in book history. I so understood why Theo likes him and wants him, even as I realized that it was much less clear cut than Theo believes.

Theo is one of the only black kids in her dance class, in her school, in her neighborhood. Donovan was only of the others. This matters, in that it shows her relationship with her peers. What it means when the topic of segregation comes up in school, and she is asked to give examples of what that meant to her family.

And of course this is a mystery: what happened to Donovan? What, if anything, should Theo say about what she knows? And it's a story about being passionate about something as all-consuming and physical as ballet.  And it's about friendship, I haven't even mentioned Theo's two best friends, Sara-Kate and Phil. Or Theo and eating, and what she eats and why, and how that is part of who Theo is rather than the only thing.

Because this is such an elegant, complex book this is one of my Favorite Books Read in 2014.

Other reviews: Stacked; Slate Breakers; Los Angeles Review of Books.

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


Jenny @ Reading the End said...

So glad you reminded me about this book! I was wanting to read it when I first heard about it, but for some reason it didn't make it onto my TBR list (I got distracted, I guess?). It sounds great, though. Adding it to my list now.

Kelly Jensen said...

What a great review of a great book!