In a previous life I was a ballroom dancer. It was a few months after the birth of my first child. I was looking for a form of exercise and a bit of fun to go along with it. Ballroom dancing provided both. Through the fast-paced rhythms of Salsa and Merengue, I discovered that I do, in fact, possess latin hips. Foxtrot allowed me to channel my inner Ginger Rogers. And I dare any woman not to feel like a princess while performing the Viennese Waltz. Dancing was a huge part of my life. I danced throughout my second pregnancy and several years following that. Over time, however, other physical activities (running, hiking, yoga) usurped ballroom’s place in my life. Not to mention, the exorbitant cost for dance lessons, made any regularity of practice quite taxing on the wallet. But I still look back on that time fondly. Ballroom dancing brought fun and adventure to my world. It taught me the importance of artistic expression and the rewards of taking a risk in pursuit of that expression. These are lessons one can seamlessly extrapolate to other aspects of life, as is the case for Evie in Instructions For Dancing.
Nicola Yoon’s Instructions For Dancing is a lovely novel about a young woman in turmoil. Evie Thomas is a high school senior struggling with the recent demise of her parents’ marriage. The divorce has left Evie disillusioned with the romantic notions she used to read about in novels and once believed attainable. According to Evie, love only leads to heartache, and she has no interest in that. But a chance encounter with a mysterious woman in front of a neighborhood “little free library,” elicits an unusual outcome. Evie finds herself invested with the magical power of clairvoyance, after speaking with this stranger. When Evie witnesses couples kissing, she can see episodes from the entirety of their relationship; past, present, and future. And in these visions, every couple’s relationship ends the same way. In heartbreak. The visions reaffirm Evie’s strongly held beliefs, and cause her to question why she’s been given this particular power. The answer may be found within the pages of a misplaced ballroom instructional manual. A clue inside will lead Evie to the doors of Le Brea Dance Studio. Here she will discover the mystery and majesty of ballroom dancing. She will also catch the eye of a young man named Xavier who will prove to be more than just a great dance partner. Evie’s on a path toward romance, but she’s hell bent on finding the nearest exit.
Young Adult fiction is one of my favorite literary genres. Over the last couple of decades, YA has grown immensely, showcasing diverse voices with riveting stories to tell. Nicola Yoon has firmly made her mark as such a voice. But don’t let the categorization dissuade you. Many titles considered YA, can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. This is most certainly true of Instructions For Dancing, a story of seizing the moment and saying yes to love, in spite of what the future may hold. But be warned. If you decide to read this selection, keep a box of Kleenex handy. I’m not crying. You’re crying.
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