cover image Pointe, Claw

Pointe, Claw

Amber J. Keyser. Carolrhoda Lab, $18.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4677-7591-5

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.)