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:

Top Ten Books That Were Totally Deceiving

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! Today we have compiled a list of 5 books each that have tricked us somehow. Was it because of faulty cover art? Was the summary in the back completely different than the actual contents of the book? Or did you expect a book to be one thing and it turned into something else all together? So, as you can see or will come to see, the word deceiving isn’t necessarily always a bad thing…


1. The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes

As I’m sure you noticed from my review, I absolutely loved this book. Loved loved. But I was so surprised by how deep this story actually went. (The title suggests something entirely different.) There are also so many sensitive themes explored, as well as this undeniable affection for writing. So deceiving in a good freaking way. This book blew me away.

2. Other Words for Love by Lorriane Zago Rosenthal

I don’t know about you but when I’m perusing the bookstore, I read the backs of books to help me decide if I’m interested in. OWFL made me question those who wrote the back summaries because this one was extremely off. The description focuses on first love and the horrendous pain that comes with heartbreak. But the book was much more about the main character for me and dealing with pressure from her mom, crappy treatment from her sister, and finding her place. I think the love story, though significant, wasn’t the true focal point of this book. (My review.)

3. Various Positions by Martha Schabas

I don’t want to give that much away since I have my review coming up on Friday (finally!). I knew this book contained certain intense and uncomfortable moments, including some super weirdish sexual moments. I was most surprised by the feminine themes, as well as assuming a certain situation went one way because of incinuations on the back of the book. (They didn’t go the way I thought.) I know. Totally vague right? No, it’s not a book just about ballerinas but instead, the darker parts of this profession and self-discovery in dark and difficult ways. (And so worth reading.) (Goodreads)

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Judging by the title (and terrible cover), I never would have picked up this book if it wasn’t for a friend’s recommendation. Because, c’mon, what is a 27-year old doing reading a book about french kissing? I’m so glad I didn’t listen to my judgmental self or I never would have become so enraptured with contemporary YA. I still think this book deserves a better cover and title, but whoa it is so much more than a book about a girl getting kissed for the first time. It’s smart, it’s LOL funny, and it makes my stomach flip. Thank the YA lords for this book. (Goodreads)

5. Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

I have this terrible habit of buying a billion books on my Nook and just letting it sit there. At some point, in all my blog reading, I stumbled across this title and a raving review. When I opened it on my Nook though, it was about 700 pages. HOW WAS I EVER GOING TO FIND TIME TO FINISH THIS? I even told myself if I reached a certain page number and wasn’t into it, I would just give up. (I hate giving up.) But my god. Even though my Nook pages were drastically wrong, I would have read 700 pages. It was such an engrossing story about family and beginning college and relationships. (My review.)


1. Crossed by Allie Condie

This may be an odd choice, and I’m fully aware of that. I suppose I felt most tricked by how captivated I was with Matched. I love, love, loved that book. Couldn’t have raved about it more than I did, and therefore pre-ordered Crossed to be delivered on the release date. I felt so let down. The whole mood had changed and things were so slow. I missed the action-packed, sit-on-the-edge-of-my-seat feeling that captivated me in Matched. I’m still holding out for book three, but my heart broke a little when it wasn’t what I expected. (My review.)

2. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

I gave a lot of reasons for why I felt so deceived by The Disenchantments in my review. The cover implies a fun, light-hearted book. I didn’t find it to be that way. It also screamed female protagonist. That it was not. I felt pretty tricked because I fully expected to love every.single.thing about it, and it just kind of fell flat for me. (My review.)

3. The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

Estelle and I did a joint book report on this book. The impression I received from the summary on the flap of the book was that this would include quite a bit of a sweet romance. NO. Negative. False statement. That was such a minimal part of the book; I loved the bits that did exist, but I’m a girl who loves some romance and I felt betrayed.

4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

The title of the book screams I NEED A BOX OF TISSUES WHILE READING THIS. But, don’t be fooled. The book is clever, witty, laugh-out-loud funny, and ridiculously original. (My review.)

5. Populazzi by Elise Allen

I saw this cover and thought it would be a lighter read that I’d breeze through. I did fly through the pages, but that’s mostly because I LOVED the humor and greater messages included in the book. Allen wrote the story so well, and everything felt so authentic. I didn’t want it to end. (My review.)

So, do you have a list of books that were deceiving? Let us know what’s on your list!