Published by Swoon Reads on October 17th 2017
Genres: young adult, fantasy
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When the music stops, the dance begins.
Seventeen-year-old Penny is a lead dancer at the Grande Teatro, a finishing school where she and eleven other young women are training to become the finest ballerinas in Italy. Tucked deep into the woods, the school is overseen by the mysterious and handsome young Master who keeps the girls ensconced in the estate – and in the only life Penny has never known.
But when flashes of memories, memories of a life very different from the one she thinks she’s been leading, start to appear, Penny begins to question the Grand Teatro and the motivations of the Master. With a kind and attractive kitchen boy, Cricket, at her side, Penny vows to escape the confines of her school and the strict rules that dictate every step she takes. But at every turn, the Master finds a way to stop her, and Penny must find a way to escape the school and uncover the secrets of her past before it’s too late.
I’ve tried many different Swoon Reads titles, across a wide range of genres, and readers, I think I’m done. I think I’ve liked one of all the books from them that I have read, and the rest have been mediocre or pretty terrible. It’s not a Macmillan thing, it’s an imprint thing. The Midnight Dance was no different. The premise held a lot of promise, and the writing was atmospheric and full of delightful turns of phrase. But that’s where the good ends.
First things first, if you are looking for a creepy book about ballet as a topic, skip this. Though it’s set at a theater with an attached school for ballerinas, it felt as if The Midnight Dance could have been written about any hobby, but the author chose ballet, because why not? There really is very little actual ballet in the book–it’s peppered with a sentence here and there like an editor told the author she had to have some actual ballet in a book about ballet.
The story flashes back and forth between the past and the present, telling the story of the male antagonist in the past, and to the present, telling the story of Penny and the unsettling things happening at the ballet school.
My main issue were all the random inconsistencies in the story. For example, towards the end, Penny goes into the kitchen where Cricket is making escarole soup for the gala, but later on, when the author recites the entire dinner menu, the escarole soup is nowhere to be found. Now these are things that could be ironed out in the final edition, it’s true, but I had to make a note of it as it really affected my enjoyment of the novel. These are things I look for when I am doing my job, so they really stick out to me as a reader.
There were also quite a few implausible things that just didn’t work for me, things that made me roll my eyes and made me think the characters got out of their tough situations just a little too easily. Like how simple it was to break out of the mental hospital. There were others, but I didn’t start to mark them until close to the end when they started to pile up.
Look, I didn’t hate this book, but it sort of reads like mediocre fan fiction. I can literally see this as an AU Twilight fanfic (which I used to read a lot of), and it would have been fine as that, but my expectations aren’t as high for fanfic, either. This is a traditionally published novel. It should have been better.