Genres: Young Adult; Contemporary; Romance; Fiction; Mental Health; Disability
Publication date: March 1, 2022
Genie used to fouetté across the stage. Now the only thing she’s turning are the wheels to her wheelchair. Genie was the star pupil at her exclusive New York dance school, with a bright future and endless possibilities before her. Now that the future she’s spent years building toward has been snatched away, she can’t stand to be reminded of it—even if it means isolating herself from her best friends and her mother. The only wish this Genie has is to be left alone.
But then she meets Kyle, who also has a “used to be.” Kyle used to tumble and flip on a gymnastics mat, but a traumatic brain injury has sent him to the same physical therapist that Genie sees. With Kyle’s support, along with her best friend’s insistence that Genie’s time at the barre isn’t over yet, Genie starts to see a new path—one where she doesn’t have to be alone and she finally has the strength to heal from the past.
But healing also means confronting. Confronting the booze her mother, a recovering alcoholic, has been hiding under the kitchen sink; the ex-boyfriend who was there the night of the fall and won’t leave her alone; and Genie’s biggest, most terrifying secret: the fact that the accident may not have been so accidental after all.
“What’s wrong with you today?”
“Let’s see, my legs – useless. Bladder – useless. My bowels are like – screw it. It’s hot out here, and instead of you just letting me hurry up and get into the air-conditioned car, you’re asking me what’s wrong.”
That shut her up for now. What I really wanted to say is the boy who let me fall off a three-story building showed up today.
But I can’t say that, because she thinks I just lost my balance, which isn’t a total lie, but it’s not the whole truth, either.Chapter 1,Page 14
If you’re new here: Hi, I love dance stories. If I find a book with a dancer in the cover or the book’s blurb talks about dancing, you’d better believe that I’m going to pick it up.
A lot of stories that mention dance – even Better Together by Christine Riccio which I also read this month – seem to be written by someone with a perfunctory understanding of the dance world. Knowing this, and having read books recently that have this same shortcoming, it made me smile seeing how Turning does not have this problem.
Turning deals with the intricacies of the ballet world from an insider’s perspective. It deals with being on the cusp of making it profession, of being at the top of your field, and having it all ripped from your grasp. It talks about the beauty of a pas de deux and the technique that goes into making a piece look flawless. It touches on the magic people can bring to the stage when they’re passionate about what they’re doing, when they let their emotions out on the stage.
Sure Genie might not be in the spotlight herself anymore, but she still manages to shine in this story. She might have a lot of anger and issues that’s she’s going to need to figure out, but she’s working on it. She’s working on herself and discovering how her new life is going to look. And really, after such a serious accident at such a young age, what more can we ask of her?
I’d certainly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys reading about ballet and the beauty of dance. However, my recommendation comes with a warning: If you’re not comfortable reading about emotional, mental, or physical abuse, this probably isn’t the read for you. If you don’t want to be in the head of an incredibly angry person, this probably isn’t the read for you. If you’re uncomfortable reading about a traumatic injury – such as a car crash or falling off a 3 story building – this probably isn’t the read for you.
If none of those things bother you, why not give this read a try? Sure Genie is filled with hate and anger over what happened to her, but her world is still filled with beauty.
“How’d you know I did choreography?” Suspicion creeps into my voice.
“D-d-didn’t. That’s really c-cool, though.”
My choreography is sacred. I don’t like talking about it. “Why the interest in ballet?”
“B-b-because it’s like you.” His face twists as he tries to start the next word. He takes a deep breath. “Beautiful, complex, and there’s a lot I don’t understand.”Chapter 15, Page 175
How would you feel if you were on the cusp of realizing your dreams, only to have those very dreams dashed on the pavement? Would you wake up and be happy to do something else with your life? Would you fall into despair, giving up and not try to push forward with life? Or would you get angry?
It’s clear from the first page of this story that Genie is angry. Angry at the world, angry at anyone who tries to help her, angry at herself. But as we go through this book, her anger starts to make sense.
Genie has never had an easy life. Her mother is a recovered alcoholic, her father is a deadbeat and absent. She watched her father abuse her mother at an incredibly young age. She ended up dating a boy who was just as manipulative and abusive as her father – he just hadn’t gotten to the physical abuse stage “yet”. At least, not that we, the reader, know about until the book is almost done.
Speaking of Genie’s father, he’s a real piece of work. He has the gall to blame Genie for his new daughter being sick. Oh no, I ignore my first daughter! She must be the reason my new, better daughter is sick! Let me go track her down and force her to un-curse the child I actually care about! If I could, I would probably punch this man in the face. Or use him as target practice for fencing.
Not to mention the fact that he rubs it in Genie’s face that he’s the reason she’s been able to dance for years. Of course he doesn’t admit that the “arrangement” he and Genie’s mother have regarding child support is because he stole her money for a stupid get rich quick scheme. Also: why would he NOT pay child support? He’s Genie’s father – he walked out on them. He should be helping with Genie’s life, and in a monetary way is the least he could do.
Oh, and then we have the fact that he reminds Genie he never hit her. As if that makes it okay he used to beat on her mother. As if it makes it okay he hadn’t talked to her in years until he wanted something from her.
You know what? Father is too strong a word for this man. Sperm donor. He’s a sperm donor and nothing else.
While we’re on the subject of Genie’s parents, I just want to touch base on Genie’s mom. She might not have been perfect, she might not have understood what Genie needed, but at least she was there. At least she tried to help.
Of course she’s got her own baggage. Being a recovered alcoholic can’t be easy on a good day. It certainly can’t be easy when your teenage daughter has had an incredibly traumatic injury and refuses to talk to you – or anyone else, for that matter – about it. But she keeps trying.
Sure she wouldn’t stop harping on Genie to try therapy, but it worked for her. I can understand why Genie wanted her mother to drop it – if she’s not ready for therapy, she’s not ready. She has the ability to bring it up when she’s ready to and her mother shouldn’t try to force her to do something she isn’t ready for. But I can also understand her mother’s stance on this. She’s trying to help Genie and she doesn’t know how to herself. Instead, she’s trying to bring Genie to someone who can be the help that Genie needs.
That brings me to Nolan, the little stinker. (There’s more colourful language I could use to describe the little turd, but I’ll refrain. If you’ve read this story, you know what a nightmare this boy is.)
I hate this boy. And that tells me that Smith did an amazing job writing him. Honestly, I can’t think of one redeemable characteristic in this child. He’s manipulative, demanding, childish, arrogant, quick to anger, possessive, abusive… the list goes on. And none of it’s good.
It’s bad enough reading the scenes about him or with him in them throughout the majority of the story before we find out what really happened when Genie fell. How he’d blackmail her into letting him into her room. How he tried to coerce her into having sex with him even after she was clear she never wanted to do that again. How he threatened and stalked her. How he got his mother to tell her how apologetic he was and how much he missed her.
And then. Nolan might not have pushed Genie off of the roof, but he might as well have. He pushed her on the roof. He made her scared enough for her life that she stepped back too far to try and prevent him from pushing her off the roof. And then he made the decision not to help her.
He can say he that he regretted his decision to let her fall as much as he wants, but it doesn’t change what happened. It doesn’t change the fact that he let her fall to teach her a lesson. His actions – or inaction, as the case may be – could have cost Genie her life. It certainly cost her the future she’d been working for since she was a small child.
Nolan was going to attempt to make the pregnancy force Genie to stay with him. He was going to make her give up on her dreams to stay with him. Hell, he would have happily beat up the world if it meant keeping Genie as his possession.
Thankfully Genie was able to get out from under his thumb. I can understand her being worried that the next guy was going to try controlling her like Nolan had, and I’m glad that the “Nolan like tendencies” she saw in Kyle were just her projecting her insecurities onto him. He wasn’t trying to be controlling or demanding, Kyle was just genuinely interested in Genie as a person and wanted to make sure she was okay.
Speaking of Kyle, I really did feel for him and his situation. While a lot of kids do stupid things growing up, he certainly made one hell of a bad decision. My heart breaks for what he’s gone through, but it breaks even more for his best friend. For the person who got in the car with an impaired driver and didn’t come out of it awake.
This is in no way me excusing his driving intoxicated. Staying the night or calling a taxi remain two much wiser choices Kyle could have gone with. But it still breaks my heart to see him hurt.
I’m glad that Genie and Kyle have each other. It’s not going to be an easy relationship for them. It’s not going to be a smooth relationship. Heck, it might not be a relationship that lasts. But it is a relationship that both of them get to enjoy and live in the moment for. Both of them are in a place in their lives where they need someone to like them for who they are, knowing all of the baggage that comes with.
Oh, and we all know what Kyle meant by “tonight”, right? Good, just checking.
The final thing that I want to touch on (briefly, I promise. I know this post is getting a little long) is Genie finding a way to keep dance in her life. She didn’t do it alone – Hannah and Miss Kuznetsova were two people who pushed Genie the hardest to find a way to stay in the dance world. But she did.
Sure her dreams of being a Prima in Europe were dashed, but that doesn’t mean Genie had to lose her magic. It just meant that her dreams hit a fork in the road and Genie had to follow the other path. Choreography might be something sacred to Genie, but it’s just about time she started sharing her magic with the world.