Monday, August 21, 2023

Guest Book Review: First Position

By Melissa Smoot

Five years into her career at the North American Ballet, Sylvie Carter has come a long way from the girl she once was—the young, driven ballerina who dutifully kept a list of rules for how to succeed. But as her star in the company rises, every rule gets broken and she becomes a version of herself she no longer recognizes.  When a tumultuous, troubling relationship erupts into a devastating scandal for which she alone is blamed, she loses everything. Her reputation is destroyed, her best friend is now her fiercest rival, and the dream she’s worked for her entire life—becoming a prima ballerina—will never be realized. She vows not to ever make the same mistake again.

But when renowned dancer Alessandro Russo joins NAB as a guest artist for the season, Sylvie is magnetically drawn to him. Torn between fear and attraction, she finds herself mentally unraveling but also artistically blossoming as she taps into emotions she’d buried long ago. Caught in a bewildering spiral, she can either let the wounds of the past destroy her or find a way to be reborn. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

As a former ballet dancer (never professional), I was extremely excited to read this book. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I first started it, but from the first chapter I was hooked. 

The story is about an extremely talented and disciplined ballerina named Sylvie Carter, along with a supporting cast of characters who are also part of the world of professional ballet. Throughout Sylvie’s story we learn of her strengths as a solo artist in the North American Ballet (NAB) but also her tragic self-sabotage, all while trying to be the rising star she has always seen herself as. The story jumps back and forth from the present to 5 years prior, giving us glimpses into the intricacies of Sylvie’s friendships and relationships, and ultimately a scandal that could end her career once and for all. Her once best friend, Jocelyn, is now her biggest enemy and nobody in the company will even look at her. Will her obsessive tendencies and strict self-discipline end up being her downfall and cause her to lose everything she has worked for the last 20 years?

Hamrick weaves a dark and scandalous web around the often-glamorized portrayal of professional dance. I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t wait to see if Sylvie would prevail or if she would simply become another victim of the almost impossible standards set for ballerinas. This was a fast paced and sometimes disturbing read (see trigger warnings below) but I blew through it. The writing flowed effortlessly as did the storyline. I am really looking forward to reading Hamrick’s second novel that centers on the other main character, Jocelyn. I have no doubt I will blow through that one just as quickly. Anyone looking to add something a little different to your TBR will not be disappointed in First Position.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Melissa Smoot became an avid reader as a small child, growing up in Chicago. The first book she remembers reading (and loving) was Mandy by Julie Andrews. She has since become a lover of Women’s fiction as well as mystery and suspense and everything in between. Melissa graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in American Indian Law and is also pursuing an M.L.S degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State, with a focus on Tribal Law and Corporate Compliance. In her spare time, she likes to read, do jigsaw puzzles, go for long early morning walks, spend time with family and friends, and try new places around town. She works in finance and currently lives in Scottsdale with her Jack Russell Terrier, Dolly.

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TW: sex, drugs, alcohol abuse 

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