{Review} Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe

I don’t read a lot of novels in verse, nor do I read a lot about dance. The former is more because I don’t really know how to sift through the good stuff and the bad stuff, the latter because dance (especially ballet) kind of freaks me out—the body obsessive, intense grind of it is extremely disturbing to me. However, despite my reluctance with both of these elements, Audition was a fantastic read. 

Interesting Themes

Fish out of water, rural girl in an urban, sophisticated setting, is one of my favorites and it’s handled so, so well. Having lived that experience as a 17 year old, I appreciate when this is done well, and in a nuanced, non-stereotypical manner. Audition really nails the feelings of having the wrong everything—the wrong clothes, the wrong accent, etc. I haven’t seen this addressed in a lot of reviews, but it’s an important element. 
Relationships at the intersection of Dysfunction Junction and Userville Road. Audition really explores the attraction of these types of relationships, especially the younger girl-slightly older, very talented, dude dynamic. Rem, the dude, is not an inherently bad person, but he sure sucks at normal, functional relationships. The way his character is handled reminded me much of the way Cardidad Ferrer handled the male protagonist in When the Stars Go Blue—and that’s a good thing. Lots of nuance there. 
The whole “muse” thing is fascinating to me both in fiction and as a very real part of the arts world (I have an art history background and the female muse is such an interesting facet of the history of many great artists and their work). It’s explored in all of its beautiful WTFery is wonderful in Audition. 

Note

  • There’s an odd format to the verse in Audition. The beginning of each line is capitalized, as opposed to only the beginning of each sentence. This didn’t bother me—it actually read in my head with a staccato feel to it that made the story feel slightly frenetic (I have no idea if this was the author’s intent or my own interpretation), but I can see it being distracting to some folks. 

Memorable Moments Etc

I found myself lost in the words of this novel. I love it when that happens (which is funny, because my favorite novels have very sparse language, but every once in awhile, I want something different). For example:
As afraid of conversation 
As I am of boys, 
Of men, 
Of wind blasting through
Open car windows.
And this… this killed me:
My Vermont accent,
Inferior as my angular ports de bras, 
Reveals my rural roots, basement ballet technique.
If I open my mouth, 
It will only remind them 
Of the imperfections of my limbs. 
Silence feels safer.</blockquote>
And finally…
<blockquote>Once you learn the technique
Of joining a man in bed It seems that it might stretch further 
Than développés, splits, grand jetés. 
And maybe you’ll consider 
Using that technique 
On more than one boy
Until, like ballet, 
The steps become 
An act in themselves,
Separate from you, 
And you forget who you are 
All over again.

 

The only thing that kept me sending this one straight to my must read recommends list is that the ending felt extremely rushed, and that the resolution was just too tidy. It was a let-down after the slow-burn of the rest of the novel.

Verdict: Recommended

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