This book starts in the office of New York City Ballet school where two high schoolers are hearing the words no ballerina wants to hear, they are being cut. There isn’t room for Olivia and Zoe because NYCB can’t afford to teach girls who will not make it. Zoe can’t imagine anything happening that could be worse than being cut, until something does happen. Olivia gets sick, really sick, and Zoe has to deal with her best friend getting Leukemia and going through high school without Olivia.
Olivia is a sweetheart, but I happen to identify very closely with Zoe. Other than the fact that I don’t have a best friend since birth who is dying of cancer I could be Zoe. Recently, I underwent a similar speech. I wasn’t cut but I was told that I probably would have better luck in not ballet. Zoe and I had very similar reaction, I continued to go to class but I cut my hair very short and went into a ballet rebellion. I also am more of Zoe because I can be the bitchy friend sometimes. I am not telling you all of this because you all care deeply about how I view myself in line with the characters, I am telling you this because the characters in this book are life-like. Olivia was a sweetheart, the world would be a cruel place to take her. She was kind and loving and she taught ballet to unfortunate kids when she no longer could learn. Olivia was just the kind of person cancer should not be able to touch.
Life goes on. Zoe learned that more than ever when Olivia gets sick. Zoe has tests and grades that don’t care that her best friend is in the hospital. She has overly friendly cheerleaders and hot football players that suddenly care. There is parties and other friends and birthdays, but Zoe doesn’t want any of that. Zoe wants Olivia to be okay. Zoe deals with sadness as she takes over teaching Olivia’s dance class, and as she gets involved with a boy Olivia used to like. Zoe and Olivia even fight, but Zoe would do anything for Olivia, even take her to the nutcracker.
This book was real and sad and moving. As I was reading it in a hotel lobby I had to pause every paragraph in order to not disrupt the others in the room with my ugly sobs. This book hooked me because I am a dancer, but I kept reading because I fell in love with the characters and the plot. Everyone should read this a cry with me.