Pointe by Brandy Colbert
Published: 2014, G.B. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
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The past few years of Theo Donovan’s life haven’t been easy. Her best friend was last seen four years ago, she’s been battling with anorexia since then, and she has reached the point where serious, competitive dancers such as herself must start making names for themselves if they want a chance at becoming professional.
Things go from difficult to far, far worse when Donovan is suddenly discovered and returns home. Because Donovan isn’t talking to anyone - not even his former best friend. Theo realizes that she has some incriminating information about Donovan’s abductor, but stepping forward will not necessarily fix what has happened to Donovan, and it may hurt Theo’s chances of pursuing her ballet dreams.
Pointe is a heavy book. Not only does it deal with abduction and eating disorders, but also with rape, abuse, cheating, drug use, and various dramas that come with being a teenager (some light, some decidedly not so). But overall I found that I quite enjoyed this book and its exploration into some of the darker aspects of humanity.
With the amount of tough issues that Theo must face over the course of this novel (many of them presenting themselves in various iterations through the book), it would be difficult not to sympathize with our narrator. She’s just so incredibly broken, but believes that dancing pointe will enable her to rise above her challenges. It also helps that she’s really, really talented. Pointe helps Theo ignore many of her issues, and in many ways it defines her. As much as pointe helps Theo gain a sense of purpose in her life, however, it isn’t quite the panacea she wishes it to be.
Nor is pointe given quite the emphasis that readers would expect, given that it’s the title of the novel. Don’t get me wrong: pointe is a very crucial aspect in this novel. And it’s a fascinating one; Colbert clearly did her research and reading about the techniques and competition was eye-opening at times.
At its heart, however, Pointe is about Theo reconciling her inner demons and learning to love herself once more. Donovan’s kidnapping has certainly played a role in her insecurities, as do past and present romances. Fortunately, Theo has a strong support network in her parents, her dance instructor, and her two best friends from school - if she can learn to be open with them.
With the many issues it juggles, at times Pointe feels a bit...messy. But then, life itself is pretty messy. And that truth isn’t simply exhibited through Theo’s story. The longer the reader spends inside Theo’s head, knowing all she knows, the easier it is to see the flaws in all those she spends time with. But, as the novel ultimately shows, those others in whom we place our trust and love can also be the ones who can raise us up and give us strength, which is an encouraging message indeed.
Contemporary is not my favorite genre, but I will certainly be interested in reading Colbert’s future works. Pointe is a well-written, well-paced, and fascinating look at a girl whose life (and world) is on the brink of collapse. But it’s not just doom and gloom, and it ends on a rather hopeful note. Recommended to those who enjoy gritty contemporaries with complicated protagonists.
Rating: 3.5 stars