Marta Selbryth is on her way to becoming a ballerina. At only seventeen in 1957, Marta auditions to join the prestigious Intermountain Ballet Company in Billings, Montana and gets accepted. The future seems bright, yet uncertain, for Marta who has never been on her own before and she must find a way to make it as an adult and also as a dancer. Marta is smart, quirky and likeable which makes 84 Ribbons enjoyable from the start.
Marta decides to save her ribbons from her pointe shoes and decides that once she collects 84 ribbon from her old shoes, she will be ready to dance her first solo. With this goal in mind, she tries to get settled in Billings. As time goes on, Marta learns that there is a dark side to the world of dance that extends far beyond friendly competition between dancers. Under the strict rule of Madame Cosper, Marta finds herself pushed to limits she never dreamed of. Her friends in the ballet company, Lynne and Bartley are faced with the same pressures and their attempts at perfection come at a high cost. Marta finds that dance is ruining her ability to maintain a relationship with Steve, a young and energetic reporter, who is interested in her. It takes her time to realize that she is not only hurting him, but also herself all in the name of ballet. A few unforeseen, terrible events that happen to both Marta and a dear friend, lead her to realize that starvation, diet pills, and over exhaustion were never part of the life she envisioned for herself. Marta, although young, is forced to grow up very fast.
84 Ribbons tackles very adult issues for being a Young Adult novel and as a result, it is not limited to just a young audience. Marta is well-developed, thoughtful and the reader will feel her moments of pain, joy and victory all with striking clarity. Author Paddy Eger has crafted a great read full of likeable characters, a different setting and time outside of the norm and provides a glimpse into the world of ballet that many people probably do not realize exists. Eger positions the darkness nicely against the beauty of dance and the warmth of Marta and the relationships in the book, thus creating a very enjoyable story.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Paddy Eger. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.