Review – Audition by Saskia Ward Kehoe

Review by Julie Hogan from Robert Townson High School in NSW.

Sixteen year old Sara is a gifted ballet dancer living in small townVermontwhen she wins a scholarship at the Jersey Ballet.  She moves toJerseyand here begins a new life in which Sarah becomes independent, learns the joys and pains of ballet, and discovers a talent for writing.  She begins a relationship with the handsome and talented Rem, a young man whose focus on his dancing and choreography transcends any feelings he may have for Sara. UptonAcademy, the lofty prep school she attends, with its focus on uniform and scholarship is far removed from the one she attended in herVermonthome town.

As Sara’s talent is nurtured and her skills grow, she learns about the pain a life of ballet brings.  Through her eyes we see the injuries, doubts and frailties of dancers, anorexia caused by an unending focus on appearance, and the insecurity of never being good enough. Sara’s life shifts from a small town focus to an outlook full of the possibilities.  Her sexual awakening at the hands of Rem moves her far beyond the excited texts of her old friends who boast of stolen kisses at the annual Easter Egg Hunt.  For Sara the relationship is a guilty secret where Rem barely acknowledges her outside his bedroom but at night involves her in a sexual relationship beyond that of her peers in which she becomes his secret muse who inspires new choreography.  Eventually Sara discovers the myopic existence of the ballet is just as restricting as that of a small town and she resolves to follow her passions and explore all her talents.

Audition is a beautifully written novel of lyrical verse.  The gentleness of the language often belies the turmoil and confusion of the emotions it portrays.  Often it implies as much as it describes, yet the sparse use of language in verse conveys everything needed to envelope the reader in Sara’s world.  Her self-doubts and insecurities, her strengths and determination, her loves and her losses are all compellingly portrayed.

This novel would work best with girls.  Essentially, it is about a talented teenage girl who is offered opportunities to take her life to a new level and falls in love along the way.  The insight we gain into Sara’s thinking and her emotional turmoil, while being attractive to a teenage girl could well be unfathomable for a boy of the same age.  It would be suitable for stage 5 students who would enjoy looking at the peer pressures and expectations to excel, both at ballet and at school, and the obstacles she faces.  Preliminary stage 6 English could use it to explore diversity of text and language forms and structures.  The personal growth Sara goes through could be used for an area of study for preliminary English, and Sara’s uncertainty and insecurities during the upheavals in her life as she struggle to find her place, would be excellent supplementary material for  the Belonging unit.

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