Cephalopod Coffeehouse April 2016–MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS-A Review

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Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m so excited to share a middle-grade story with a tiny dash of romance. MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS is a romp through the world of Dillon, a 7th grade boy, who wants–more than anything–to learn how to dance. And, who secretly loves his dance partner, bestie, Kassie.

My Seventh-Grade Life in TightsAbout the book:
LIVE IT.
All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.

WORK IT.
At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?

BRING IT.
Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor.

My Review:
This is a sweet and charming book about a young boy following his dream, even if it means sacrificing himself along the way.

Twelve year-old Dillon Parker is a perpetual bench-warmer on his middle school football team. That doesn’t stop his father from talking it up, and talking down all his attempts to get training in dance. His two best friends, Kassie and Carson, both have had studio dance lessons, and they detest dance schools for that very reason. Still, they love to dance and this trio works hard at expressing passion in the form of dance. Dillon feels as if he’s the worst of the lot, most of his dance moves being inspired by karate moves, a “style” he calls ninja freestyle. He desperately wants to be better, for himself, and for his dance crew, the Dizzee Freekz, but neither Kassie nor Carson will offer him any instruction.

When Dillon learns that a renown studio, Dance Splosion, is offering a three-week dance camp scholarship he creates an entry video. Too embarrassed to send it in, Dillon’s actually encouraged by his fellow Freekz to do just that: enter the contest, with the intention of turning it down, thereby humiliating the studio.

Yes, it’s a completely juvenile revenge plot. And, it’s deftly executed with just the right amount of doubt, self-examination, and subterfuge. To be successful in the contest, Dillon seeks help from Sarah, Dance Splosion star student. She agrees, at first as vengeance for a slight made by Kassie. When she learns that Kassie isn’t up for the competition, Sarah still helps Dillon learn how to dance, and it’s unclear why she’d help him. A secondary nefarious plot, perhaps?

What I really loved about this book was what I love about most middle-grade: tons of heart, tons of insecurity, tons of finding one’s path moments. Dillon feels simultaneously guilty for accepting Sarah’s help, as he must cut himself off from the Dizzee Freekz as part of his deal, but he’s also rocking out, feeling like a real dancer for the first time ever. Sarah’s an excellent dancer, and a good instructor, but she’s not very nice, and being around her only reminds Dillon of how much fun his other friends are.

The plot of the book allowed for many ups and downs, with great supporting characters that are real, and very much imperfect. I had so many fantastic moments of YES! and other fantastic moments of DON’T DO IT, DILLON! There are plenty of excellent insights about being true to one’s self, following your dreams, Don’t give up, being a team player. All of this happens organically, and Dillon’s an excellent naive hero. He’s an everyday kid, no special talent, and all of his success, if any comes, is down to his hard work. Dillon also has to educate his father regarding prejudice, and you can be sure the G-A-Y word is tossed around–not without consequence! Such fun, and told in a way that’s totally engaging and accessible to kids of that age. Expect a diverse cast, a tiny dash of romance, and unexpected friendships.

Interested? You can find MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and likely your public library.

Thanks for popping in! Hope you’ll bop over to check out the fave reads of my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers.