When It All Syncs Up

Annick. Jun. 2023. 336p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781773217819.
Gr 9 Up–This realistic debut is set in an elite ballet academy and then in a public school for the arts. Readers first meet dancer Aisha when she is taping up posters of Black ballerinas and trying to hype herself up for an audition for an apprenticeship at her ballet academy. Though she dances perfectly, she is not awarded the apprenticeship because she doesn’t have “the look.” Aisha decides to visit Neil, an old friend from ballet. Upon her arrival, she finds that Neil is in the hospital with alcohol poisoning, brought there by his friend Ollie. While she is staying with him, Neil encourages her to audition for the public school for the arts. Aisha, following an impressive audition, is welcomed into the school where she excels, given opportunities that she had not been afforded at her old school. As Aisha and Ollie deal with Neil’s alcohol abuse, their friendship blossoms into a romance; however, they both have huge personal obstacles to overcome. Aisha’s estranged mother shows up and causes some past mental health trauma to come back up, leaving Aisha and her friends with difficult decisions to make about priorities. Aisha is Black, Neil is Korean, Ollie is Algerian, and there is diversity in the race and ethnicity of the other characters.
VERDICT Ameyaw adeptly creates visceral responses to the characters’ situations, while treating their issues of mental health, eating disorders, and traumas from assault and alcoholism with sensitivity. A needed addition to all collections that serve young adults.

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