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Estelle: Various Positions by Martha Schabas

Various Positions by Martha Schabas
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: February 14, 2012
Pages: 336
Target Audience: Young Adult (for mature audiences)
Format read: Paperback ARC from ALA.

Summary: With her sex-obsessed peers and an unhappy home life, the only time Georgia feels at peace is on the dance floor. When she gets into a prestigious dance school, she believes her life may change for the better. But instead she gets wrapped up in the attention from her male dance professor and her thoughts and actions slowly spiral out of control…

Various Positions is a tough book to classify. The main character is 14 but has some very adult thoughts when it comes to sex. She’s fantasizing about her dance teacher, watching porn on the internet, and buying lingerie in hopes of someone seeing it. It’s an interesting juxtaposition from the character we meet initially. Georgia is skittish when it comes to her friends talking about sex and kissing and then she secretly begins to obsess with this world.

You don’t need me to tell you sex is a private thing. In my circle of friends, it wasn’t something we were very open about. At least with the girls. But I do remember those 14-year old boys, bringing it up anytime they could, teasing us, and being very open about the porn they were watching. While reading Various Positions, I stopped several times wondering if the uneasiness surrounding this particular book would exist if we were reading about a guy. And then I think Schabas has done something remarkable – given us an intimate look into the way Georgia’s mind works, stripping her of all boundaries. There are no limits when it comes to uncovering her actions and thoughts. Thoughts that are dark and honest and real.

This book is incredibly well-written and does a brilliant job of presenting a series of different women, full of their own beliefs and their own insecurities. Georgia is brought up in a household where her mother stresses about good looks and has a shaky relationship with Georgia’s dad, who for the most part is MIA. Then there is her independent, feminist half-sister who provides her with support and the constant reminder to not let her dad’s indifference get the best of her. You can see how this dynamic in her family life (and the secrets she soon discovers) cause her to be so unbalanced and confused.

While I was never hoping to be a professional dancer, I did dance for many years and the scrutiny I felt from the company owner and then on my own is something that still affects me to this day. The perfection of movement and appearance – you never know how that will affect someone and we see many levels of it here. Schabas seems to remember with great clarity both the challenges (both mental and physical) and pride and passion that come along with this profession.

Various Positions is not for every reader. Maybe when I was 14, it wouldn’t have been deemed super appropriate but in 2012 with Teen Mom, Jersey Shore, and the ability to find whatever term or video on the internet with just a click or two, I imagine many would relate or at least not shy away from the context. To take it one step further, I would love to see a book like this on a college syllabus – my college in particular would have loved to dissect this one to death. It’s an intimate and multi-layered look into the feelings of actions of different women. And how they just might surprise you.

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Check out these other reviews of Various Positions:

June 18, 2012 - 12:06 am

Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books - Thank you for linking to my review! Honestly, this book wasn’t what I was expecting BUT it did turn out okay in the end. It’s written really candidly and really well, so I actually was invested in the story.

April 15, 2012 - 8:39 am

Estelle - April, super happy to hear I may have changed your mind. More and more, I think this book was worth reading and I’m sad it gets a negative rep. Because the writing is just SO good and a lot of what happens is so surprising. (At least to me. haha) Let me know if you read it!

April 15, 2012 - 8:00 am

In My Mailbox: April 15, 2012 - […] Various Positions by Martha Schabas (E) New York City Teen Author Festival: Recap 1 (E) Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn (E) Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist (M) Top 10 Books that were Totally Deceiving Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Baumann (E) […]

April 15, 2012 - 7:12 am

April Books & Wine - Damn. I’ve seen a few bad reviews of Various Positions and was prepared to write it off as don’t read. BUT THIS REVIEW MAKES ME DESPERATELY WANT TO READ IT.

Like, maybe at 14 my friends and I weren’t talking about sexuality or whatever, but we definitely were at 16. And hmmm, these days it seems like 14 year olds act an awful lot like the 16 year olds of my day. So yeah, I think being as open as I am about that stuff, I’d actually LIKE Various Positions.

April 14, 2012 - 11:28 am

Hanna @ Booking in Heels - Like Sash above, I was expecting something slightly fluffier, but then I read your review and my eyes were opened!

I added this to my wishlist ages ago because I love novels about aspiring dancers, but children talking about sex does make me cringe. Maybe I’ll wait a little before getting hold of this one.

Nice review though 🙂

April 13, 2012 - 11:57 am

Sash from Sash and Em - I suppose more than anything, I was upset because Various Positions deceived me! I was expecting something cute and fluffy (a la Bunheads by Sophie Flack) and then BAM out of nowhere, this CHILD talking about SEXUALITY. When I want a book that discusses sexuality (which is totally cool with me), I want to be told from someone a (enter: dry sarcasm) little bit older than 14. Now yes, I realize that in today’s society there are things like Teen Mom and Jersey Shore but that doesn’t mean that exposing children to things like that is okay. I’m not saying ignoring it is okay either, but perhaps showing children while saying “This is unacceptable.” is better.

It could also be that I’m extremely conservative and very much old-fashioned. 🙂

I loved your level-headed review of this book that I loathe so much.

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