FICTION

Sparrow

Tor Teen. Mar. 2020. 368p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765398857.
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Gr 8 Up–Ballet is Sparrow’s life and joy. Her goofy dad, Aunt Sophie, and closest friends Lucas and Delaney fill up the spaces in between until Tristan enters, almost instantly sucking up what’s left of Sparrow and then some. Tristan loves Sparrow. She knows it. He might be scarily possessive and mean, but he’s always ashamed when he behaves badly. Sparrow and Lucas (her friend and ballet partner), tell this story in alternating chapters, first from Sparrow’s point of view and then, in retrospect, from Lucas’s, propelling the narrative forward. Sparrow’s story resonates strongest when she’s dancing. Readers can feel her athleticism and passion, and the difference between a performance deemed flat by Madame Levovka and one wrought with emotion. Similarly, Sparrow’s haunting dreams, often saturated with feather imagery, pull readers into the murky depths of her sorrow and hurt, effectively evoking devastating folkloric and personal histories while foreshadowing violence still to come. Other parts of the narrative feel less developed. Sparrow’s relationship with Tristan, especially her near-immediate and blind commitment to him, feels told rather than shown; readers are asked to accept their intense relationship immediately with little build-up from their first meeting to her sudden unwillingness to extricate herself. Further, at times, the teens’ dialogue lapses into phrases more often heard by older people, jarring readers and rendering conversations slightly less believable each time.
VERDICT Despite some lapses, a solid debut with evocative imagery that will fit well into a collection in need of stories featuring teens grappling with unhealthy relationships or demons in their past.

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