I received this book for free from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Turning by Joy L. Smith
Published by Simon and Schuster on March 1, 2022
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Love & Romance, Young Adult Fiction / People & Places / United States / African American & Black, Young Adult Fiction / Social Themes / General, Young Adult Fiction / Social Themes / Pregnancy
Source: Simon & Schuster
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In this raw, searingly honest debut young adult novel, a former aspiring ballerina must confront her past in order to move forward from a devastating fall that leaves her without the use of her legs.
Genie used to fouetté across the stage. Now the only thing she’s turning are the wheels to her wheelchair. Genie was the star pupil at her exclusive New York dance school, with a bright future and endless possibilities before her. Now that the future she’s spent years building toward has been snatched away, she can’t stand to be reminded of it—even if it means isolating herself from her best friends and her mother. The only wish this Genie has is to be left alone.
But then she meets Kyle, who also has a “used to be.” Kyle used to tumble and flip on a gymnastics mat, but a traumatic brain injury has sent him to the same physical therapist that Genie sees. With Kyle’s support, along with her best friend’s insistence that Genie’s time at the barre isn’t over yet, Genie starts to see a new path—one where she doesn’t have to be alone and she finally has the strength to heal from the past.
But healing also means confronting. Confronting the booze her mother, a recovering alcoholic, has been hiding under the kitchen sink; the ex-boyfriend who was there the night of the fall and won’t leave her alone; and Genie’s biggest, most terrifying secret: the fact that the accident may not have been so accidental after all.
Today is my stop on the Turning by Joy L. Smith Blog Tour hosted by TBR and Beyond Book Tours.
Man, I don’t know what they call the WB these days, but this Turning by Joy L. Smith would be perfect for it’s own TV show. It’s got drama, lies, tragic accidents, toxic relationships and the ballet. I am still picking myself up off the floor after finishing this great debut. Whew!
I picked up this novel because I have never read a book featuring a Black girl as a main character who has a disability that requires her to use a wheelchair. The added fact that the main character, Genie is a Black ballerina was also part of the premise that pulled me in.
I Love Genie
First, I loved Genie. The name, the attitude, the perseverance, she is a one-of-a-kind character. Her sense of humor is on point (pun intended…when you read the book you will appreciate this lol). Despite the tragedy she is currently trying to process and heal from, the girl still knows what she wants. And Genie still wants the ballet. But she can’t have it the same way she had it before. Part of her journey is figuring out how to be the new Genie when she is still mourning the old.
Loved the genie in a bottle jokes spread throughout the books. Also kudos to the author for giving each chapter a title. I love it when authors do this and wish it was done more often these days. This story needed the levity to balance the heavy topics it discusses.
Relationships are Hard
Relationships are hard to navigate for the characters in this story. Some are strained, some toxic, some need repair, some need to be abandoned, some need nurturing and some just need space so they can grow. It’s easy to just hate Nolan because he is the ex-boyfriend who won’t take the hint and leave Genie alone. But while he is wrong and I for real wanted to just give him a full-palm smack to the back of the neck more that once, you can’t ignore what Genie calls “Daddy issues” that he is dealing with. It’s not an excuse, just a factor into understanding his character’s actions.
The interesting thing about Genie, is that she has a keen understanding of how each of her relationships works and the state they are in during the story. For example. she knows that things are really bad between her and Nolan, but it’s a hard train to get off once its moving, as many emotionally abusive relationships are. She knows how to approach her best friend and what will pull her in versus make her walk away forever. She even has an awareness of how to navigate her relationship with her mother, even though it is definitely embedded in a disgruntled teen daughter/ Mom trying hard to take care of teen daughter category. I thought her relationship with Kyle was interesting. But I do wish that had been explored further since he has such an impact on her.
The most interesting relationship though, is the one she has with herself. She has to reckon with who she “Used-to-be” with who she is now.
It was clear to me right away that this story was going to deal with generational trauma. Genie and Nolan deal differently with their “daddy issues” and their choices affect their relationship, simultaneously bringing them together and making them bad for each other at the same time. Genie is also dealing with trying to be the opposite of her Mom, who was a teen mom. Her own mom is dealing with alcoholism, I believe from both being abandoned by her own mom during her pregnancy and from dealing with an abusive husband.
As a warning, there are a lot of heavy topics in this novel. I wasn’t a fan of how the abortion news got dropped into the narrative. It felt a little too soon, like it should’ve been revealed a little later on once you got to know Genie better. It felt a little clunky the way it was revealed. The same with the treatment of Genie’s Dad showing up out of the blue and demanding her help for something. I don’t even think that was resolved and if it was I missed it. There was a lot to deal with just Genie’s fall, grief and learning to operate in her new reality with the people she loves. I don’t know why, but the way the abortion was treated felt like a bit much at times, but I understand how it factored into the plot.
If you are an educator, I would definitely be ready to facilitate a safe space for discussions to occur during and after reading this book.
Get Your Tissues Ready
I am not a cryer. But, this ending got me right between the eyes. I was ugly crying. Just a forewarning to prepare yourselves.
Content warnings: Being newly paralyzed from accident, parental alcoholism, abortion, spousal abuse, emotional abuse
About the Author:
Joy L. Smith is a childcare professional and lives in Queens, New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, she has a bachelor’s degree in human development and differences, with a specialization in communication disorders. She’s been writing since she was a teenager and has been mentored by Ibi Zoboi, Radha Blank, and Emma Straub through the Girls Write Now program. Turning is her debut novel.
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