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. Nothing has felt more dangerous.
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. Jessie has one shot at her ballet dream. Dawn’s blackouts are getting worse. At every turn, they crash into the many ways girls are watched, judged, used, and discarded. Should they play it safe or go feral?
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Pointe, Claw by Amber J. Keyser was one of those rare books that was a wild ride that culminated in my not being quite sure what I read while still being relatively pleased at the end.
The story of Jessie and Dawn is told in alternating points of view, each of which has its own advantages. Jessie is a ballerina working toward a career as a classic dancer whose story was very fluid, much like her style of dance. I noticed that certain elements of her story, particularly classically trained ballerina goes to ultra good school, does well but not well enough, gets thrust into an avant-garde performance, and ultimately doesn’t get the role in the company she wanted, were remarkably similar to the plot of the movie Center Stage. It felt odd at times reading those chapters because it felt like I knew where everything was going as it was happening, so while I appreciated the style in which it was written, I would have liked a bit more originality in regards to Jessie’s character and her plot development.
Dawn was a thought provoking character because I never quite knew where I stood with her. At the beginning of the story, it is introduced that something is wrong with her, but what? Her mother has dragged her to dozens of doctors and continues to do do throughout the length of the novel, each one more patronizing than the last. Her thought process was jarring compared to Jessie’s, much rougher around the edges, and I enjoyed it at least as much, though in a different manner.
The, and I hesitate to use this phrase, “love story” portion of the book was difficult and sad. There were tragic elements resulting from parents thinking they knew what was best for their children, definite instances of homophobia, and Jessie and Dawn’s life paths from those points onward. I’m glad that neither Dawn nor Jessie succumbed to self hate, given the behavior of their parents.
Now to the center of my confusion about this book: I’m not sure what it was trying to be. There are a few things that occurred within in that never quite got solved. Several threads ran through the story that felt supernatural, but could have been something else: no definitive explanation. There was a flash of something at the very end of book that seems like it might have answered some questions, but again, no definitive explanation. The connection between the two girls, for example: there were moments when it truly felt like something otherworldly was going on, maybe some kind of psychic connection, but at the end I wasn’t sure where they stood in that regard.
Pointe, Claw left a lot up to the reader regarding the ending and that left a slight bitter taste on my literary palette.
The journey of watching Dawn trying to figure out what is going on with her was fascinating, what with the adults around her have next to given up on her and rather than submitting to depression or complete darkness, her struggling through and trying to discover the core of her being. Jessie’s fighting for her dream, only to see it alter right before her eyes, becomes something that felt cliche but energetic, giving it something to stand on besides older stories.
An enjoyable book, though again, I wish I had some more definite answers about the ending.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.