Our April Book Club selection was “Pointe” by Brandy Colbert. It’s not an easy, breezy, shallow book about a boy and girl who meetcute and overcome a few obstacles to be together forever. “Pointe” is a tough but powerful book dealing with several serious issues. It’s the story of Theo, a 17-year-old African-American ballet student who has many disturbing challenges to deal with, the biggest of which is the fact that her best friend and neighbor Donovan, who was kidnapped four years ago, has been found and is now back home. This sends Theo’s life into a tailspin and causes her to remember a painful time in her life right before Donovan’s disappearance.
Our contributors had a varied response to the book, but if you’re up to the challenge, take the time to read Colbert’s story and experience it for yourself. Will it make you sad, yes, but it will make you think too.
Many thanks to Penguin Teen for sending us copies of the books to read and give away!
Publisher: Penguin Teen | 352 pages | April 10, 2014 | Buy it
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.
Keely graded the book an A:
This was not your lighthearted coming of age YA story. It was poignant and heartbreaking. The subject matter is at times dark, deeply personal and harrowing. Not for the youngest of YA readers, Theo’s story is likely to speak to the older among the YA crowd – those trying to focus on their future, the many temptations likely to be thrown in their path as they make their way through high school and the changing and challenging nature of friendships and relationships.
Theo is struggling. With friendships, with family, with herself and with doing the right thing. Her life is in upheaval and she tries desperately to control everything and ends up dredging up disordered behaviors from her past and realizing that she has the support of her family, her friends and her mentor that allows her to free herself and her best friend.
Theo is such a compelling character that the book was hard to put down. Her story is not an easy read, but I think many of her struggles – to fit in, to be the best, to do the right thing – will really resonate with older teenagers. There are frank discussions here of mature topics, so definitely not recommended for the younger YA set, but it is a powerful moving story for older teens.
Amanda graded the book a B+ for adult readers:
Pointe was an interesting and well-written book for mature, older high school kids and up. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book because the author had a smooth and engaging style, I found the tone of the writing was disconnected from the feeling of the main character, Theo. I thought her character was portrayed slightly colder by its literary vocabulary and sentence structure, compared to how I pictured her character to be. Additionally, the references to drug use and drug dealing, by the main characters, was referred to in a lackadaisical way, potentially giving the wrong message to young readers, which is the target audience for this book. The underlying message that I received was that there isn’t anything wrong with doing these things.
Having said all of that, the author, Brandy Colbert interweaves the lives of young teens who have issues ranging from eating disorders spurred by pre-existing events, to kidnapping, to sexual exploration. Through her writing, we are able to feel a characters passion for dance, while at the same time experience her lack of respect for herself.
(Not appropriate for teen readers).
Erin graded the book a B:
“Pointe” by Brandy Colbert is about a teenaged girl named Theo. Up to the beginning of the novel, Theo has had a really rough life. Her best friend was abducted when she was thirteen, and the authorities have yet to uncover a lead, and have pretty much stopped looking. After her older boyfriend left and didn’t come back, she drifted in and out of a minor eating disorder before collapsing and being forced to enter a program to help her get healthy again. Ballet is the only thing that has gotten Theo through thus far. Her dance teacher threatened to kick her out if her eating habits didn’t improve, and getting lost in the steps helped distract her from her missing friend and boyfriend. Now though, she’s finally ready to get her life back together, stop depending on boys, and start focusing on her real dream: becoming a professional ballet dancer. Then her best friend returns after years of getting used to life without him, and things get complicated once again.
I thought “Pointe” was a great story about perseverance and self-reliance. There are heavily mentioned mature undertones, but the overall plot was well thought out and I found myself sympathizing with the mistakes and triumphs of the characters. The plot idea was unusual and intriguing, and I appreciated the reality of the situation. I felt that the novel described the mindset of a stressed out teen really well, and the setting and hangouts of the characters were really well described. It was a relatively quick read, but I appreciated the direct manner that Miss Colbert used to relay her book and its plot. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book.
Diana graded the book a B-:
Brandy Colbert’s “Pointe,” is a promising novel. Main character Theo is a serious ballet student, so I was hoping for glimpses of the ballet world. Upon reading the blurb on the back of the book, I know that her long lost friend Donovan is back after having been kidnapped four years ago. So I was hoping we would learn about Donovan’s kidnapping and what happened to him. We discover that Theo had problems with anorexia and was hospitalized for it. So I thought that the book would become about Theo’s battle with anorexia. We discover that Theo had engaged in a sexual relationship at a young age, and then I thought that we were going to see how this affected her. Unfortunately, none of these things really happened.
Having said all of that, overall the story really is fascinating and there were some interesting characters in the book. I just found myself always wanting more. The truth is that the character I really wanted to know more about is sadly absent from the story. I hope that perhaps Colbert is thinking of writing a companion novel and letting us know more about Donovan’s story.
Cassie graded the book a C+:
“Pointe” was not what I expected. I was interested in the book, because I was interested in the narrative of the best friend in a kidnapping story — someone for whom life has to go on as normal after the unthinkable occurs. And that’s the story I thought I’d be getting when I sat down to read this book. But it turns out, that’s not really what “Pointe” is about.
“Pointe” is about a lot of things. There are so many incredibly serious and important issues clamoring for space in this novel – drugs, sex, infidelity, betrayal, child abuse, anorexia, kidnapping, PTSD, race, ambition – but while I’m thrilled that so many of these uncomfortable issues are being given a platform for discussion, the sheer number of them trying to play out here was overwhelming. There was so much going on in this novel that I was never certain from one page to the next, what story I was supposed to be reading. I just knew it wasn’t the one I’d thought I was going to see.
I enjoyed a lot of things about this novel, and I applaud Colbert for writing a narrator who is not easy to like and a narrative that is at times hard to read. And I think I understand the parallels that all those above issues were trying to draw. I think I see, when I step back and look, how the situations Theo finds herself in in the present are meant to echo and relate to the situations she experienced in the past. But the lines never pulled together in the end the way I needed them to. It never felt solid to me, even when everything started coming together, and the characters and events I wanted to see explored ended up being the ones left purely to the readers’ imaginations.
There’s a lot of potential in this story and its characters, but everything was just a little too loose and scattered to live up to it.
To win a copy of the book, simply leave a comment! We’ll choose one random winner on Friday, May 16, so leave your comment by 11:59PM on May 15. Because we are sending a physical copy, we can only offer this giveaway to readers with a domestic address.