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The Other Side of Perfect - Mariko Turk

The Other Side of Perfect

By: Mariko Turk

Paperback | 18 May 2021

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A stunning and unique story about healing that offers a gentle hand to anyone who struggles with perfectionism, competition and an all-or-nothing mindset, as well as those who don't understand ambition.

Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg - and her dreams of a ballet career along with it. After a summer spent healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and bingeing ballet videos on YouTube), she must trade her preprofessional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the musical. Rehearsals are nothing compared to Alina's past life at the acclaimed Kira Dobrow Ballet School. But the stage does offer more than she expected - namely her castmate Jude. He's annoyingly attractive, ridiculously optimistic and, worst of all, Alina just might be falling for him. However, finding a new normal means making peace with her past and acknowledging the racism she faced. Deep down, Alina still yearns for the world of ballet she left behind. But what does it mean to love something beautiful, yet broken? And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else?

Lyrical, romantic and peppered with humour, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change and the importance of raising your voice.

'A captivating story of love, loss, identity and rediscovering your truth. Perfectly en pointe!'
Wai Chim, author of The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

'A nuanced exploration of shattered dreams and new beginnings. Full of pain and beauty, like the best ballet.'
Jenna Guillaume, author of What I Like About Me



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. The Other Side of Perfect is her debut novel.
Industry Reviews
"'Beautifully written, funny, and heartfelt, The Other Side of Perfect is a must-read debut. Alina is a character to cheer for and cherish.' Emma Mills, author of First & Then and Lucky Caller

'A strong portrayal of musical theater, ballet, the arts, and culture all merged into a coming-of-age story that will resonate with teens.' School Library Journal

'Debut novelist Mariko Turk writes with a great deal of nuance as she teases out the emotional knots behind her main character Alina's moody exterior. Cast as ""The Vamp,"" originally played by dancer Cyd Charisse, Alina gets initiated into the weird world of musical theater, while still grappling with the grief and pain left by her injury. Turk also draws attention to the racism embedded in classical ballet culture, forcing Japanese American Alina to reckon with the ugly side of her beloved art form. A well-choreographed story of hope, resilience, and personal growth.' Booklist

'An injured teenage ballerina falls in love while re-examining the cultural and racial context of her beloved art ... Rom-com elements create a familiar framework for a fresh story exploring the tension between racist traditions and culturally authentic representation in the arts. Half Japanese and half White, Alina works through her complex feelings about being gaslit into dancing the problematic Chinese Tea solo in The Nutcracker for so many years while her best friend, Colleen, who is Black, was repeatedly given the Arabian Coffee role - and less talented White dancers got better parts. Alina's compelling, realistic journey focuses on strategies to manage trauma and mental health with the goal of moving forward even when there are setbacks. The writing is compelling, sentimental moments will please romance lovers, and the hopeful, yet realistic, ending is satisfying. A love story with a refreshing focus on confronting systemic racism.' Kirkus Reviews

'A heartfelt and realistic portrayal of a teenager at a crossroads. This book made me laugh, cry, wince, and smile so big. Alina's journey to acceptance after her dreams are shattered was so carefully plotted and written. I could not put this book down because I was cheering so hard for Alina. The author manages to work so much into this book - complicated family dynamics, first loves, sexism, and learning to start over. Alina, a Japanese American girl, also confronts racism in the ballet world and throughout the novel she learns how to question what she's always been told is unchangeable. I loved seeing Alina find her voice and her passion again. This is a must read.' The Almeda Free Library"

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