Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review: Pointe by Brandy Colbert

by Brandy Colbert
Release Date: April 10th 2014
2014 Penguin
Softcover Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0399160349
Genre: Fiction / YA
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Theo is better now.

She's eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn't talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn't do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she's been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

My Thoughts
I had really mixed feelings towards Pointe at the beginning simply because the book was not what I was expecting.  Having read another teen novel about a friend being kidnapped and his return, I thought this book would be about his inclusion back into their lives and trying to cope with his disappearance, but it was definitely not that at all. And while there were some elements about ballet in it as the main character is a ballet dancer, the book was definitely not about that either.  Once I got over that little hurdle, I was able to focus on the story that was a bit more grim and dark than I was originally expecting.

First of all, the main character is quite compelling and is quite well-written.  I was interested in her life right away simply because her actions didn't seem to be ones of a well-disciplined ballet dancer; she drank, did pot, stayed up late, went to parties, and so on.  As the story unveiled, you see a person trying to make the best of a situation, but the reality is you've got a teenager barely hanging on for dear life, dealing with a very shattered self-esteem due to events that occurred when she was thirteen years old.  Her best friend, Donovan, disappeared for four years, and suddenly, is found and reappears. But we don't get to see Donovan and as the story unveils, we learn a lot more about the events leading up before Donovan's disappearance.  And they are quite grim and disturbing.  And suddenly you realize you have someone not only dealing with self-esteem issues, but also who was raped and manipulated into believing she was at fault for everything, a spiral that sent her into anorexia trying to keep her body from growing older because that how HE liked it.  It was very disturbing and all I wanted to do was go hug my own 15 year old daughter.  While some of the scenes are graphic, some of them leave it to your imagination to figure out and sometimes that's even worse.  And the guy was such a master manipulator that Theo really had no idea what was happening to her.   What Donovan's return did was trigger all of these memories in Theo and made her question what really happened all those years ago, especially as she was going to testify at the trial and she was struggling with what she should reveal at the trial.  

At first I wasn't sure I was going to like Theo, but as the story went on I grew to like her very much and empathized with her quite a bit.  I didn't always understand her choices, but the author definitely made her likable.  And as Theo and Donovan's story was slowly revealed, you understood a bit more that Theo had never recovered from her encounter with this creep all those years ago and blamed herself for what had happened to Donovan.  And while Donovan's story was never revealed, you could certainly read through the lines and figure out that it wouldn't have been pretty.  I was quite okay not learning more.  And I really liked the way the author told the story anyway.  I don't always think everything has to be explained, the hints are bad enough if you've got an imagination, and I can imagine plenty, thank you very much.  I don't need graphic details about this.  

This book deals with a lot of themes: friendship, rape, eating disorders, manipulation, drugs, cheating, sex, child abuse, kidnapping, and so on.  And it's not really packaged nicely either where everything comes out happily ever after in the end for everyone, which I liked.  It takes those situations where you realize you are being used to really figure out what you want in life and Theo definitely had some eye-opening moments in this novel.  I liked how the author handled those moments and liked Theo even more because of them. 

Pointe is a story about friendship, but more than that, it was a story about realizing that you are important and can't live your life in fear; you have to face those fears in order to move on with your life.  While at first, I was a bit flummoxed because I thought this was about the kidnapping, once I got over that, I really enjoyed the story and the characters; even the secondary ones had a distinct voice and while not always on Theo's side because of some choices she made, they were real and authentic.  Overall, it was a story about learning to love yourself and realizing you have the same worth as everyone else.  If anything, it gave me another chance to have some meaningful dialogue with my own daughter about abuse and manipulation when she read the book herself.  This book is emotional and real, but oh so necessary.