Review: FLIRTY DANCING by Jenny McLachlan

Bea Hogg is shy but fiery inside. When national dance competition Starwars comes to her school looking for talent, she wants to sign up. It’s just a shame her best friend agreed to enter with school super-cow Pearl Harris. Bea will fight back! But when school hottie, Ollie Matthews, who also happens to be Pearl’s boyfriend, decides to enter the competition with Bea, she will have more than a fight on her hands.

This warm, nuanced, hilarious story about friendship, fortitude . . . and dancing is impossible not to fall in love with. Jenny’s voice is fresh and convincing, and she handles both darker and lighter elements of the story with equal panache.

Note: I read this book and wrote this review many months ago. I now work for Bloomsbury, but my opinions here were set in stone long before, and I stand by them.

Cute book alert! Gosh, I was hoping for cuteness when I requested this title from Bloomsbury, and my instincts were right on the money. This book is like if Disney Channel made an Original Movie out of a one of those Georgia Nicolson books, and the book happened to be about dancing. It’s quirky, British, hilarious, and just offbeat enough to keep me grooving along.

It took me forever to get past the first page, but not because it was bad. Quite the opposite, actually. I read the first page and then literally made every single person working with me that day read the first paragraph just so I could watch their reaction. I mean, how would YOU react if you opened a book and the first thing you read was:

A small naked person is licking me. I don’t panic—this happens a lot. The naked person starts kissing my face. I smell Marmite and banana and… hang on… the person is not entirely naked. It’s wearing wellies. Wellies? This is new. And totally unacceptable.

I just about died, first from the imagery and then from the looks of horror, bemusement, and glee my coworkers gave me. The small naked person is protagonist Bea’s little sister Emma, possibly the cutest munchkin of a literary sibling I’ve encountered in a long time. Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of small children in my YA, but Emma was adorable enough that I make an exception for this book.

Bea herself is also pretty awesome, filling the Average Girl trope nicely with a loving if oddball family, average self-esteem, and fair share of embarrassing moments. Whether it’s accidentally waving around a naked Barbie with a bedazzled “ninny” on a school bus or unknowingly teaming up with the hottest boy in school, Bea had me laughing out loud even as the secondhand embarrassment had me hiding my face in my hands.

The plot is pretty typical. Average Girl Bea wants to try out for a reality show dance competition called Starwars. Her best friend ditches her to join the cool kids’ dance team, which is headed up by Bea’s arch-nemesis, Pearl. Pearl, of course, is inexplicably horrible but is also dating Ollie, the cutest, nicest guy in school. And of course circumstances align so that Bea’s best and only hope of winning the competition is to pair up with… Ollie.

This is not a deep book. There aren’t any shocking twists or deep characterization. Like I said, it’s like a DCOM movie, completely predictable and fun because of that predicability rather than despite it. Some parts (Bea’s rapidly grown talent, for example) strain belief, but I was too busy grinning to care. I also liked the bits of characterization that Ollie is given and that he confronts Pearl about her behavior and word choices when the chips are down.

Bottom line, if you want something light and fast to give your mood a boost, you should check out this book.

Favorite Non-Spoilery Quotes:

What if my hands feel dry? Or, worse, sweaty? What if they just feel weird? Could I have weird hands? The more I think about my hands the weirder they seem. Could I… could I possibly have man-hands? I begin to feel sweat squeezing out of my big manly fingertips.

“This is the best thing I’ve ever sat on,” I say, wriggling in my seat. “Except maybe Darth Vader’s lap. That was good, but scary… he was doing the voice.”

Points Added For: Calling out the use of the word “retard,” making me laugh, Emma, Ralph the Barbie, Ollie’s fear of roller coasters.

Points Subtracted For: A bit thin and lacks believability.

Good For Fans Of: Disney Channel Original Movies, laughing, dance competitions, Georgia Nicholson’s books.

Notes For Parents: Language, drinking, bullying.

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

2 Responses to Review: FLIRTY DANCING by Jenny McLachlan

  1. Zareena @ The Slanted Bookshelf June 26, 2015 at 8:12 am #

    Oooh, this sounds like a perfect summer read! I’m always up for a cute YA contemporary, even if the book isn’t deep and especially if the main character is funny 🙂 Thanks for sharing this book and great review!
    Zareena @ The Slanted Bookshelf recently posted…Review: Wallbanger by Alice Clayton (the sweetest couple!)My Profile

    • Shae June 26, 2015 at 9:48 am #

      Hope you love it!

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