Monday, June 9, 2014

Various Positions - YA Bingo

Completed On: June 4th, 2014
# of Pages: 361
Bingo Category: A Book Set in a High School

So, Various Positions . . . or as I like to call it, the book with the unfortunate title.

Don't get me wrong, the title suits the book. The story is centered around 14 year-old Georgia who gets accepted to the Royal Toronto Ballet Academy and dreams about becoming a world-class ballerina, not to mention the girl on the cover is dressed in ballerina attire, so the title makes sense. Plus the synopsis hints at a relationship between Georgia and her ballet teacher, who is also the head of the school, giving the book's title an element of double entendre.

This book is not a YA book; it's sold in the adult/Fiction & Literature section, but there are a few reasons I decided to include it in this reading challenge. A) the character is a teenager at the ripe age of 14. B) the majority of the book is set at a high school, specifically the Royal Toronto Ballet Academy. And C) I wanted an excuse to write about it, and that's what I'm doing now.

Various Positions was named a "Best Book" by The Globe & Mail, which is quite the achievement on its own but is even more impressive for a first novel. What I would label as the most impression aspect of the story is how Martha Schabas is able to inhabit the awkward, ever-changing mind of a 14 year-old girl and then replicate that so articulately in her writing. I especially liked how Schabas depicted Georgia's various mental processes when trying to grapple with the idea of people as sexual beings.

This book was also written by a Canadian author, which was quite refreshing. I can't remember the last time I picked up a piece of Canadian fiction especially a story set in Ontario. There were references to cities near me, such as St. Catharines, along with one passage that instantly entertained me:

"We huddled on her top bunk and called Molly on her family's land line. It was a 905 area code, so I pictured a wide street without a sidewalk, a basketball hoop with a beard of snow." - Martha Schabas, Various Positions, pg. 173.

I myself have a 905 area code, so I was smiling the entire time I was reading that part.

 (spoiler zone) The biggest surprise about this book was the fact that the story line was just that; a big surprise! Going into the book, I was positive this story was leading up to an illicit relationship between student and teacher, starting with present day and then flashing back to unravel how it came to be in the first place. However, in the end, any indication of attraction or heat between Georgia and Roderick is completely built up in Georgia's mind. How things fall apart with regards to Georgia is incredibly interesting. As I kept reading and things went south for her, it made me wonder if there was a mental condition in existence in which a person would think constantly about sex without actually being addicted to the physical act. Now that I have internet access and can look it up I know that nymphomania would probably be the correct term for what I'm trying to describe, even if Georgia doesn't become sexually active until the near-end of the novel.

In the sense of full disclosure, the chapter that concluded part 1 of the novel was very hard for me to get through. I was invested enough in the book to feel physically embarrassed for Georgia during her last time with Roderick in his office, as she kept making the situation worse and worse for herself and piling on. Have you ever read a book/watched a movie/followed a TV series where the protagonist is doing something so idiotic in your eyes that you yourself end up feeling ashamed or embarrassed for them? Am I the only one to ever experience that? (no more spoilers)

I chose to categorize this book as "a book set in a high school" because the main setting of the novel really is the ballet academy Georgia gains admission to at the beginning of the novel. There is where she becomes friends with Sixty and Chantal, where Roderick admires her for her talent and where so many things fall apart by the end of the book.

All in all, if you're looking for an immaculate example of fiction with a lovable yet very misguided protagonist, then pick up a copy as soon as you're able.

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