Summary: Turning Point by Paula Chase
In Turning Point, we reunite with the Pirates Cove gang (minus a few) — mostly Mila, Mo, Sheeda, and Tai. This book focuses on Monique (Mo) and Rasheeda (Sheeda)’s friendship and how it changes over a summer when both girls are drawn into different pursuits. Mo is off at a ballet intensive with Mila, while Sheeda is stuck at church (with her church “friends”) feeling like she has no life.
At the ballet intensive, Mo comes face to face with her competitive attitude which is fueled by feelings of not “fitting in” with the mostly white, skinny ballet dancers. Even though she makes a couple of friends (who basically lovingly force her to befriend them), she’s insecure at times, afraid to be vulnerable because everything feels so different. On the other hand, Sheeda is desperate for something new. Unfortunately, she falls into a risky situation with Mo’s brother whom she happens to have a crush on.
Will Mo and Sheeda’s friendship survive the summer?
Whew, this book! Where to begin? If you know anything me as a middle-grade reader, you’ll know that Paula Chase is one of my favorite voices on the page. No one does authentic voice like she does. I’ve followed the Cove kids through three books now, and honestly, if you read a line off the page of any of the books, there’s a high chance I’ll recognize Tai’s “braggadocious” voice or Mo’s no-nonsense sass! Chase has created strong, memorable female characters who are different, yet similar, and so familiar.
Readers, especially those who have experienced racial prejudice will understand Mo’s (sometimes) oversensitivity about her thicker body or louder voice. It’s also easy to sympathize with her desire to show no weakness, to be “strong,” never let others see her insecurities. Still, Mo is just a teenage girl who still wants her mother to comfort her when she feels unsure. Again, Chase reminds readers that Black teens are kids too. And, oh the ballet! Chase shows off her dance mom experience as she describes the rhythmic movements of ballet in just the right amount of detail.
I also felt a kinship with Sheeda. She enjoys parts of being religious, but it’s hard to truly know how you feel about a religion if you’re forced and constantly feel under undue restrictions. Her aunt is overprotective and uses the Bible more like a verbal weapon than a loving guide. Sheeda is also a bit lost without her best friend — and who hasn’t ever felt that way? But I especially liked the way her situation with Mo’s brother is handled in the book and how that plays into her relationship with Mo. Finally both Mo and Sheeda try out new friendships with other girls and it’s nice to see.
Overall: Turning Point by Paula Chase
I adored this book. Turning Point by Paula Chase is a compulsively readable upper middle-grade book (more mature than the average but not quite YA) that explores a horde of important themes. This book handles everything from female friendships, body image, sexual harassment, religion, racial prejudice, to ballet, If you’re looking for a middle-grade book about ballet, I’d highly recommend this one. As at the time of this review, it’s the best I’ve read. Claire Swinarski’s What Happens Next features a ballerina, but she’s not the protagonist and there isn’t much about ballet in the book.
So, in summary? Buy Turning Point.
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I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.