Monday, April 5, 2010

Ditty wants to start ballet lessons - but her strictly religious Jewish parents forbid it. So she begins dancing in secret, creating elaborate lies so her parents don't find out what she's doing - if she's caught, she'll be in huge trouble. Ditty soon finds herself questioning the beliefs her parents have raised her with. For Ditty, following her dreams of being a ballet dancer may cost her her family.

What really surprised me about this book was the fact that it was set in the present - until mobile phones were mentioned, I thought it was occuring twenty years ago! The strictness of Ditty and her family's religion was really startling since it was set in such a familiar location (in and around Melbourne) and set in the present day - a lifestyle like that Ditty had to live (involving not mixing with people of other religions, not being allowed to watch television or access the internet, having to wear clothes that totally cover your body at all times, not being allowed to have hobbies, being married off at seventeen and so on...) is one that I can hardly imagine a teenage girl living anywhere near where I live. And yet people do.

Ditty was a wonderful character, and I think everyone in the novel (Ditty's family, friends, people at the ballet school) were depicted very realistically. I think I expected for there to be a lot of competitiveness at Ditty's ballet school, but that wasn't really an element of this novel.

I think the sheer scope of the novel made it feel a bit rushed at times - it covered five years of Ditty's life, from twelve to seventeen, and there were a couple of intances where a year passed in a blink.

This is a really wonderful story - while it serves as a fantastic insight into the life of someone who's very religious, the religious aspect won't alienate readers - I think all teenage girls will really empathise with Ditty, and her need to be independent and follow her dreams is something almost everyone will be able to relate to. I strongly recommend it to girls 12 and older who are looking for a contemporary YA from a unique perspective.
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