Ballet is eleven-year-old Reeni Rosenbloom’s passion and has been since she was young. When she dances, Reeni feels free; her worries vanish as she concentrates on precise movement and follows the sounds of the music. When Reeni’s instructor, Ms. Allie, announces her retirement, she asks Reeni to dance the solo in her final recital. Though flattered, Reeni fears performing in front of an audience and envisions herself falling onstage. Reeni’s anxieties are compounded by her fragmenting home life. Reeni feels hurt and abandoned as her older sister, Jules, prepares to leave for college. In turn, she pushes Jules away, feeling resentful of her life spent “in the shadows” — Jules so frequently takes the spotlight. Reeni also adjusts to the awkward experiences of sixth-grade life. She becomes increasingly aware of and uncomfortable with her appearance, envying her friends’ slimmer frames. As dieting insidiously creeps into her life, Reeni connects with other body-obsessed girls at school, despite her best friend’s concerns. She tries to control her eating, frequently berating herself for not looking exactly how she would like. But as Reeni seeks a tether in her unstable world, her life falls into chaos. The disapproving voices in her head get louder and begin to seep into every aspect of her life, impacting her relationships with family and friends.
Soon, Reeni’s true love — ballet — is threatened. She must come to terms with her choices. Reeni’s Turn explores the universally difficult circumstances around growing up and struggles with body image in a way that readers will find relatable. There is significant Jewish content in the book; Reeni’s family celebrates Shabbat and other holidays, and Reeni even expresses how dancing evokes emotion that parallels what she experiences at Yom Kippur services.
Reeni’s passion for ballet is tangible, and her discomfort as she tries to combat the physical and emotional changes in her life are portrayed in a painstakingly honest manner. The author makes a very difficult topic accessible without minimizing its significance. Reeni’s Turn provides an opportunity for a variety of meaningful discussions.
Written entirely in verse, Carol Coven Grannick’s prose is elegant and impactful. Not one word is wasted in this heartfelt story. Reeni will stay with readers long after the last page is read.