Published by Tendril Press on March 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Seventeen year old Marta Selbryth realizes her dream of becoming a professional dancer when the Intermountain Ballet Company in Billings, Montana invites her to join their 1957 season. As Marta's new life unfolds, she must learn to face not only the successes of dancing in the corps de ballet, but the challenges and setbacks that might crush the dream she's had for so long.
After a couple of mishaps, Marta settles into life in a boarding house located near the ballet company. Her landlady, Mrs. B., is friendly, reduces her rent when Marta's offers to bake for the boarder and later allows her to use the basement as a practice studio. The two male boarders are supportive; Carol, a fellow boarder, ignores her.
Marta spends her free time practicing when she's not spending time with her new friends Lynne and Bartley,her fellow corps dancers. Their time together becomes an important lifeline through their first year.
Madame Cosper, the artistic director, is a demanding woman. Marta begins their association poorly when she makes a disastrous choice. Expecting expulsion, Marta receives a second chance in the form of dancing the unpopular character roles during the fall and winter performances.Marta determines to dance every role with confidence in hopes of proving to Madame that she's up for every challenge.
Steve, a young college man and a reporter, spots Marta when he's assigned to write an article about ballet for the local paper. He's attracted to her and begins his pursuit.Over the months ahead, he becomes her tour guide of the area and attempts to convince Marta to be his girl. But her steadfast focus is ballet and some of her adventures with him lead to problems withMadame Cosper.
Shortly after Christmas, everything changes for Marta, Bartley andSteve. Significant events permanently influence their lives. Each must deal with exhilaration and heartbreak as well as frustration and changes that test their ability to cope.
In 84 RIBBONS, Marta’s dream of becoming a professional ballerina comes true. But realizing her dream comes with a number of challenges, from living on her own to struggling with weight and injuries. The book, set in the late 1950s, follows Marta’s journey, and manages to be both nostalgic and relatable.
I generally like books set in the ballet world, so 84 RIBBONS was a good book for me. But it’s more than just a ballet book. Yes, Marta’s dream is to dance professionally and she does, but this book is also a coming of age story. Issues that were ignored at the time, such as depression and eating disorders, are worked into the book. Marta deals with a lot in her first year of independence, and I think a lot of readers will find something to relate to even if they have no interest in ballet.
If you do have an interest in ballet, then I think you’d really enjoy 84 RIBBONS. It’s a realistic look into the struggle of making it dancing professionally, including the pain, blood, sweat, and tears required, as well as the devotion to perfection. Marta doesn’t have an easy ride at the Intermountain Ballet Company, but she’s determined to prove herself and succeed.
At first I didn’t realize the book was set in the 1950s, but as I read more, I liked the time period. A few of Marta’s problems come from not having the type of communication we do today, and it was a nice throwback to remember how people used to have to do things. Life’s a lot different when you don’t have a smartphone to find out information or get you out of an emergency.
The 1950s time period also allowed for a slow-burn romance between Marta and Steve, a journalism major. Steve tried to kiss Marta their first time out, and she pushed him away because it wasn’t a date in her mind, and because she wasn’t ready for that. I liked how Marta stood up for herself with Steve, because let me tell you, that boy pushes a bit, and she doesn’t give in when she doesn’t want to. Their relationship is far from perfect, but I found it way more believable than a lot of the relationships in YA fiction.
I’m not going to spoil the ending, but boy did it leave me wanting more of Marta’s story.
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