Book Review: Bunheads by Sophie Flack

Posted May 30, 2013 by Renae // 13 Comments

Book Review: Bunheads by Sophie Flack

Title: Bunheads
Author: Sophie Flack
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Publisher: Poppy

Summary from Goodreads:

As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet.

But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah's universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other "bunheads" in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?

This book is a delightfully breezy story, light but not exactly “fluffy”—the kind of book that gives you a satisfied feeling on the last page. Protagonist Hannah’s lifestyle as a ballet dancer was fascinating, and I loved the simple charm with which Flack narrated this story. Bunheads, all in all, made me really happy.

The story is simple. Hannah is a lesser dancer for a prestigious ballet company, and she’s working her hardest to get a promotion to soloist; Bunheads follows her struggles to perfect herself, but also highlights her conflicts, as over time, Hannah feels less and less fulfilled by her chosen career. The outcome of the novel shouldn’t catch any reader by surprise, but that doesn’t make it any less rewarding.

For the most part, Bunheads is focused on dance, and since the author, Sophie Flack, was a ballet dancer herself for 9 years, I’m inclined to think what was portrayed in this novel was the real deal. Not that I would know the difference, of course. I was personally very into the descriptions of Hannah’s rehearsals, crazy gym habits, eating habits, triumphs (landing a good role), and failures (having breasts so large she was required to wear a bra). All of that felt very real and authentic to me, especially the discussion of body image—I’ve known a few professional ballet dancers, and they were always staring at their butts/thighs/stomachs in the mirror. I think that maybe for some readers, Flack’s extreme attention to detail might become tedious or boring. I didn’t think so, however.

I also liked Hannah as a character quite a bit. She’s 19 years old, and has been living on her own in New York City since she was 14. Because of the all-encompassing nature of her job, her world is isolated to ballet and her fellow dancers. She has no time to be social, to read, or do much of anything besides workout, rehearse, and perform. But when NYU student Jacob and entitled rich boy Matt show up on the scene, she’s slowly drawn out into the life of a normal young woman.

Obviously, there is a love triangle in Bunheads. But romance is so far from the primary focus of the novel. A lot of Hannah’s interaction with the two love interests happened off-stage, because while she enjoyed spending time with them, the majority of her time was wrapped up in dance. I really loved how Flack handled romance in this book, honestly—this is one of the very few light YA contemporaries that puts love on the backburner for other things, like character growth.

Bunheads was an amazing book. I loved the focus on dance, without excessive girl drama, cheesiness, or other weird nonsense. I enjoyed the novel’s protagonist, and was pleased with the way her story unraveled itself. In my opinion, Sophie Flack is a debut novelist to look out for, and I’m very glad I picked this book up.

Renae has written book reviews and other miscellany for Respiring Thoughts since 2012. She loves dogs, Mexican food, mountains, Shakespeare, and procrastinating. She's currently working on an undergrad degree in English/Spanish lit in the Midwest. Connect with Renae on Twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr.

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13 responses to “Book Review: Bunheads by Sophie Flack

  1. Great review, Renae! I had this one out from the library a while back but couldn’t get it read before I needed to return it. Your review has made me decide to check it out again and actually read it this time! I really don’t know why I didn’t take it out again (probably has to do with my overwhelmingly large library pile, ha), because I love anything that deals with ballet. I love books that give a look into the inner workings of the dance world!
    Merin @ Read and Reviewed recently posted…REVIEW: Black City by Elizabeth RichardsMy Profile

    • Ugh, my library pile is always insane. I turn in 2 books and walk out with 6 more. *sighs* But if you ever do check this book out again, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  2. I’ve wanted to read this book simply because it is about ballet. I grew up dancing (just for fun) and I’m always captivated by these types of books. I’m really excited to see how the author portrays Hannah and seeing all her difficulties, because I can understand those ideas of the problem of being a dancer. Great review!
    Andrea @Cozy Up With A Good Read recently posted…Review: The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-MorenMy Profile

  3. I find ballet such an enticing subject. What little girl, at one point, did not want to be a dancer? Cue my shock when I found out, years later, how grueling and ugly the world of a ballerina could become.
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  4. Ana

    I’m not a dancer of any kind but I do have friends who love it, ballet included, and I’m actually fascinated by their world. I think I’ll pick this up sometime, and I do like how it’s not TOO focused on girl drama. 🙂 Thanks, Renae!
    Ana recently posted…Monthly Digest: MayMy Profile

    • All girl drama is completely realistic and friendly. These girls are competing for better roles in the company, but they’re still friends at the end of the day, and there are no massive fights or grudges—thank goodness.

  5. I remember seeing this cover and being really intrigued by the blurb, so it’s nice to hear that a lot of it worked for you. I’ve got to wonder if I’m one of those people who might find Flack’s extreme attention to detail tedious, but I would hope not!
    Kelly recently posted…Happy Birthday…To Me!My Profile

    • I hope not too! 😉 It’s never really info-dumpy or overwhelming, but this is very much a ballet-focused novel. So it probably depends on your level of interest.