Nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward, the protagonist of Sophie Flack’s debut novel, Bunheads, (Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 304 pp., suggested for readers age 15 and up) knows more about “The Nutcracker” than she does about high school proms. Having joined the Manhattan Ballet Company quite young, she worries that she’s “missed something great. But then I tell myself that things experienced onstage are usually more exciting than things experienced in real life anyway.” Now Hannah, with the help of an appealing new boyfriend, is awakening to a world outside her life of hair-sprayed buns (thus the book’s title) and fiercely competitive practice sessions.
Difficult choices and evolving relationships meld with an honest picture of the ballet world in this compelling novel for teen readers. Expertly chronicled by a former dancer, the backstage, onstage, and offstage jealousies and friendships of professional ballerinas propel a story that in the hands of a lesser writer could have seemed a tad too light.