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Up to This Pointe


Up to This Pointe

The poet Langston Hughes asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?” More importantly, “does it explode?” It does for Harper Scott in Jennifer Longo’s UP TO THIS POINTE. Harper hasn’t prepared herself for anything outside The Plan. The Plan, so carefully constructed by Harper and her best friend Kate since sixth grade, goes off like a grenade --- for Harper, at least, who has never prepared for anything except life as a professional ballerina, just like Kate.

Madame, Harper’s ballet teacher, wants Harper to become a ballet teacher. Harper is great with kids, already teaches a class and is a gifted choreographer. However, Harper won’t even hear of it. The Plan is her life. Without it, she can’t survive. Her existence is centered around being a ballerina, not teaching other ones. When auditions for the San Francisco Ballet go wrong for her and perfectly for Kate, Harper is lost. She needs to stop time. She needs to freeze --- both figuratively and literally.

Harper goes to Antarctica on a grant that she didn’t earn to get away from the world. Her ancestor, Robert Falcon Scott, died on his exploration there, and she too feels as if her life is over. She has been dancing on ice the entire time, but now she’s done dancing. She’s hiding from the world. In this land of ice and snow, Harper will have the escape she needs to figure things out and heal emotionally.

This is a great read for anyone who wonders, “What happens to a dream deferred?”

The first thing that you realize in this book is the fact that, no matter how hard you try, you can fail. Sure, there are people like American Ballet Theater’s Misty Copeland who beat the body type expectations and succeed against all odds, but most aren’t as lucky. Harper is one of those people. She made no backup plan, so there is nothing left for her when she doesn’t get into the SFB or any other ballet company. Her entire life goes down the drain in that audition room, and she had nothing left to show for it except scars from a surgery that make it possible for her to dance. Harper suffers and figures out how to go on, making UP TO THIS POINTE a work of very realistic fiction for adolescent readers.

Harper’s self-discipline, independence, and determination should be the perfect cocktail for success, but she has honed these characteristics in such a way that she nearly destroys herself. With self-discipline, Harper forgoes social events, boys and even completing high school normally so she can get on with a dance career. With great independence, she gets herself to and from all of her classes. With determination, she needs no one to motivate her to dance and keep working at ballet or finishing school early. Unfortunately, Harper is also independent and determined to the point of being narrow-minded. She doesn’t confide in her parents or listen to Madame. Though never actually stated, readers wonder if Harper has an eating disorder and disciplines her diet too carefully, carrying it too far and damaging her body. Harper is her own worst enemy and will have to learn to like herself.

This is a great read for anyone who wonders, “What happens to a dream deferred?” or who loves ballet. Liking ballet isn’t necessary to liking the story since more than half of it takes place at a research facility in the Antarctic. Some readers might be bothered that UP TO THIS POINTE jumps back and forth between the San Francisco setting and the Antarctic setting and isn’t in chronological order, but it isn’t difficult to follow. 

Reviewed by Cat S., Teen Board member on January 19, 2016

Up to This Pointe
by Jennifer Longo

  • Publication Date: January 19, 2016
  • Genres: Family, Performing Arts, Youth Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0553537679
  • ISBN-13: 9780553537673