Dancing in the Dark, by Robyn Bavati

Two more steps and –
‘Where do you think you’re going?’ says my father.
I open my mouth to speak but –
‘I asked you a question,’ says my father.
I take another step towards the door.
‘Stay where you are.’ His voice is a command. ‘If you leave now, if you set foot outside that door, you are not to come back. Do you understand, Yehudit? You are not to come back.’

Ditty Cohen is not supposed to be watching TV, but when she does, she sees a broadcast of a classical ballet and is instantly hooked. She must learn ballet herself. But when she asks her parents she is told that ballet is out of the question – it is immodest, it will not make her a better person, and it is not something a good Jewish girl can do.

For the first time in her life Ditty finds herself questioning her parents’ directives. She sneaks off to take a free lesson, and soon she is dancing every day. Her passion is equalled by her talent, and she finds herself unable to give it up. Soon, Ditty finds that she is not just covering up her secret dancing, but also her doubts about her whole life as a Haredi Jew.

Dancing in the Dark is an absorbing tale of one teenager’s struggle with family expectations, her faith, and the dilemmas which choosing to defy her parents’ force her to confront. For most Australian teens, Ditty’s life and faith will be unfamiliar, making the story doubly interesting. But, on another level, all teens will find the dilemmas of self versus family, and of meeting societal expectations, familiar.

Ditty is an honest and open narrator, and her story is well crafted, and will intrigue teen readers.

Dancing in the Dark

Dancing in the Dark, by Robyn Bavati
Penguin, 2010

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