April Book Group Read: Isabelle

Hi everyone!!!  Are we ready to talk about this month’s book group read?  Let’s get started!

This months book was Isabelle by Laurence Yep.  In case you didn’t know, Isabelle was the Girl Of The Year for 2014.  She’s a dancer who has recently been accepted in a performing arts school where her sister attends, and unfortunately, finds herself living in the shadow of her big sister, also a talented dancer.

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t read this book prior to this, probably because the subject matter didn’t interest me. I wasn’t a dancer when I was younger, and I didn’t have any friends who were either, so it was a story I couldn’t relate to at all. However, there were some aspects to the dance side of the story that I did really like! I especially liked the positive idea of how everyone is an individual and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others when it comes to our talents. As I read the book, I was continually thinking about the 80’s TV Show “Fame”, picturing the busy hallways and all of the different kids throughout the school, developing their artistic talents. And I loved the Washington DC references! My husband and I have been to Washington many times, and the descriptions of the different places were easy for me to picture in my mind as I read because of that. Washington DC is a wonderful place to visit, and I have to admit that I have always been a bit envious of anyone who lives in the area and can visit on a regular basis. So much to see and do, and I thought that was well represented throughout several parts of the book.

What I didn’t like–how the book started with a negative encounter between Isabelle and Renata. I would have rather had more development about Isabelle and Luisa at the beginning with the issues between Isabelle and Renata occurring later on. I also didn’t like how the book ended with Isabelle questioning her ability yet again. I realize it was probably done that way to encourage the reader to make sure they picked up the second book, but I didn’t care for the way it was presented.  Too much emphasis on negativity, and that bothered me.

I was also very surprised, in our politically correct culture to find that Isabelle’s sister and her group were going to be dancing as “gypsies”. Gypsy is one of those words that has a negative connotation in regards to a certain group of people known as the Romani, and for some members of that group, can be considered highly offensive. When I got to that part of the book I have to admit that I was a bit stunned. There were so many cultural and ethnic references throughout the book, not sure how this one got through.  They could have made the group as something else that wouldn’t have offended anyone. Not one of the best decisions on the part of whoever greenlights the books at American Girl.

My final take on the book is that I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. I felt sort of middle of the road about it and I definitely did not enjoy it as much as I have some of the other American Girl books. I doubt I will take the time to look for the 2nd book in the series, although if I come across it at a yard sale or thrift store in my travels, I might pick it up.

What did you think of Isabelle?

Next month we will be discussing Meet Marie-Grace. June we will read Lea and July will be Rebecca.