Monday, October 31, 2011

Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe

When high school junior Sara wins a coveted scholarship to study ballet, she must sacrifice everything for her new life as a professional dancer-in-training. 
Living in a strange city with a host family, she's deeply lonely-until she falls into the arms of Remington, a choreographer in his early twenties. At first, she loves being Rem's muse, but as she discovers a surprising passion for writing, she begins to question whether she's chosen the right path. 
Is Rem using her, or is it the other way around? And is dancing still her dream, or does she need something more? 
This debut novel in verse is as intense and romantic as it is eloquent. (from goodreads)




What would you give up for your dream?
Dare I tell them that since I came here to dance

I have been giving pieces of my body away

To ridiculous diets,
To repeated injuries,
To Remington?

And that maybe

I think

With each bit of my body


I lose a little piece of my soul. (from Penguin Au)



Audition is Stasia Ward Kehoe's highly anticipated YA verse novel debut. 

At sixteen years, Sara leaves her friends and family, moves away on a scholarship to a prestigious dance school. Sara feels lost amongst her peers, who too often are pitched against one another competitively to form true friendship. Dancing is a constant discipline in which dancers strive for perfection with their routines and in their bodies. It is not an easy burden to bear, and you can feel the shackles and tension in the pages. 

To add to those swirling feelings of homesickness, Sara fast leaves her innocence behind. Remington is a dance instructor, gorgeous, older (in his early twenties, against her sixteen years) and Sara fast becomes entangled in the addictive pull of his attention. 

I feel him trace my body
With his eyes.
Panic
Numbs my fingertips.
Desire
Makes my face burn.
Sara becomes Rem’s muse. It is not a happy, giddy love story. There are sparks, swift, all-consuming romancing, followed by a dark underside where Rem’s previously charming enigmatic vibe is swallowed up into something much more foreboding. 

Audition is swirling and ambiguous and dark in parts. There were not many moments of comic relief, lightness or joy shining through. Alongside Sara, I felt plunged in a world full of pressure, doubt and the lonely struggle of an artist. The glimpse into the world of dance was insightful: often harsh, intense and yet with moments of beauty. My gosh, I felt weary just reading about it all (The physical effort and extreme commitment). 

Sara’s extremely driven, yet as the story unfolds, it shifts to become more of an internal struggle. Sara frustrated me in parts, seemingly unsure, unquestioning and yet in the end I felt proud of her ~ scraping out from under the pressure to find who she really is and what she really wants, and the story is ultimately triumphant. 

True to most verse novels, the prose is gorgeous in parts and extremely quotable. I think verse was a great medium to tell Sara’s story. It is most effective in that relaying of emotions and completely getting under Sara’s skin: 
It seems I am living
Believing
Doing
Almost everything
In halves.
On the flipside, the sparse wording did give me a sense of weightlessness while reading. I felt burdened by the emotions of it all, yet not at all grounded in the plot, if that makes sense? It’s such an internal exploration, barely any dialogue, and I missed the sense of feeling like I was in the story alongside Sara, I was very much in her head, but not in the story. Argh, it’s hard to describe. The setting seemed vague, some of the characters interchangeable, the story more emotive than tangible. 

I am a fan of the verse novel and have read many. Stylistically, this one drove me a bit crazy. Rather than just capitalising at the beginning of every sentence (like every other verse novel I have read), Ward Kehoe capitalised at the beginning of every line. Which meant she was capitalising random words mid-sentence. It drove me crazy and really broke that smooth rhythm and flow. It was quite jarring, even unnerving, LOL (with each capital, I kind of gave pause, as if the sentences were broken with full stops ~ after I while, I tried to tune out to those random capitals). 
I think I have disgusted him
With my childishness
Even though I am more afraid
Of being lonely
Than of losing anything
Rem could take from me.
I can see the talent in Ward Kehoe's debut, cleverly crafted and gorgeously written, yet I wish I had connected with the story more. (I felt mostly numb most of the time, even while appreciating parts of it). However, I am most interested in seeing others response to Audition, so far it has garnered much praise.


On the cover: Isn't it gorgeous and compelling? 


Audition @ Penguin Australia
Audition @ goodreads

9 comments:

  1. "On the flipside, the sparse wording did give me a sense of weightlessness while reading. I felt burdened by the emotions of it all, yet not at all grounded in the plot, if that makes sense? It’s such an internal exploration, barely any dialogue, and I missed the sense of feeling like I was in the story alongside Sara, I was very much in her head, but not in the story. Argh, it’s hard to describe. The setting seemed vague, some of the characters interchangeable, the story more emotive than tangible. "


    I have a sense that maybe I understand what you meant. I haven't read it yet, but I plan to. And I wonder--it sounds like it was all internal, perhaps specifically internal dialogue, and as a result you were caught up in her reaction more than experiencing the events themselves?

    Your review here is fascinating; I've been interested in Audition, but I got the impression it was a bit fluffy or shallow. Now I'm thinking it will be deeper and more like what I was looking for (if with it's problems.)

    Thanks, Nomes!
    -Mandy

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  2. I saw this in the bookstore the other day and was so tempted to buy it. I'm just worried its not my type, i dont like books that are too dark or 'Black swan' like.
    Great review, i am however still in debate over to get it or not...

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  3. While I love verse, I have not embraced it totally in a book. I totally understand your comment about not being grounded in the plot because I have felt that way in every verse book I have read. Loved the quoted verse of this one though and I also like the subject matter.

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  4. With verse novels I usually am just in the main character's head. So far I haven't read a verse that has NAILED both character and plot, as well as the writing.

    And yes, the capitalisation with each new line is distracting, which I noticed right away when I picked it up. I'll let you know how I thought of it when I finish! Such a gorgeous cover, though...

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  5. Audition seems really cool- I mean, dude, it's in verse- but I get what you mean about being in the character's head but not really in the story.

    I'm looking forward to reading this one, though.

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  6. I really want to read this book but I'm not sure about it being verse novel.

    Still, I'm intrigued and your review makes it sound so good, even if you couldn't quite connect. :P

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  7. You know, I think I would like this. I really enjoy verse novels.

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  8. Doh!! I had no idea this novel was in verse.I have it on reserve at the e-lib and I think I'm next up in line. I've never tried a verse novel before (they scare me- haha). I'll give this one a try though and keep in mind what you said. Lovely review!!

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  9. possibly the worst cover i have ever seen! it looks like a bad movie poster - which was the reason i read this one because it was at such a disadvantage next to all the other, prettier new releases.

    and it was ok - i had a lot of the same issues as you, felt like i floated alongside the story rather than in it, i'm not sure the writing had enough punch to do so. i didn't sympathise very much with sara and was not seduced by remington myself, which made it difficult to believe the story.

    and for a smart girl she came across as pretty dumb. not sure it's a great representation of a verse novel, but it's a fairly solid offering for teens.

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Thanks for the commenty love <3