Review: Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan

ARC: 179 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: April 28, 2014
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: The Ladybirds #1
Bea Hogg is shy but fiery inside. When national dance competition Starwars comes to her school looking for talent, she wants to sign up. It's just a shame her best friend agreed to enter with school super-cow Pearl Harris. Bea will fight back! But when school hottie, Ollie Matthews, who also happens to be Pearl’s boyfriend, decides to enter the competition with Bea, she will have more than a fight on her hands. This warm, nuanced, hilarious story about friendship, fortitude . . . and dancing is impossible not to fall in love with. Jenny’s voice is fresh and convincing, and she handles both darker and lighter elements of the story with equal panache.

After reading so many required books and poems for school, I decided I wanted a light, fun, and easy read for my Spring Break. Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan delivered perfectly. For a book I knew little to nothing about going into it, I was happy to find that it was exactly what I needed. I laughed; I oohed; I awwed, and I remained so glued to the book that I finished it within days--a big feat for a slow reader like me. So I'm giving Flirty Dancing
First of all, I really connected with the main character Bea. Just as the blurb says, Bea is a shy girl with a fierce spirit, a combination that stems from her insecure and submissive self hiding her amazing talent, determined character, and big heart. She always felt uncomfortable around others outside her home and small circle of friends, and that characteristic of hers totally reminded me of my taciturn self, so I really felt for Bea with every tease and mock she received from her ex-friend-turned-bully and with every self-doubting thought that ran through her mind. I rooted for her all throughout the book, and sometimes, even wanted to reach into the story and either shake her or hug her because I knew she was stronger and more capable than she believed she was. I admired watching Bea grow more and more comfortable with herself as she surrounded herself with more considerate company who saw her as what she truly was, and I liked how her character was so fond of dance, it found freedom in it, releasing whatever insecurities Bea held. Since Flirty Dancing is the first of a series that tells the individual stories of each of the four different Ladybirds, I am both sad and excited to be leaving Bea in her book as I plan to read the other Ladybirds books because I wouldn't mind at all reading more about Bea but I am also interested in learning about her fellow Ladybirds and seeing her as a secondary character. I really saw myself in Bea's character and I enjoyed reading about her.

I also really liked the secondary characters of Flirty Dancing, which were Bea's family, particularly her little sister and Nan, and Bea's friends, such as Ladybirds Betty and Kat and school hottie Ollie. Bea's family was what really made Flirty Dancing a very entertaining read for me. Her crazy, loud little sister Emma was one of those lovable little kids with endless amounts of energy as they run around naked, color themselves, whine, scream, yell, and laugh, and I was both embarrassed about her and very much entertained by her. Her crazy, careless antics made me laugh and smile throughout the entire book, and I loved her relationship with Bea, who, although did have some embarrassment for Emma, accepted her and adored her just the same. Emma struck me as no other child I have ever met in real life, and I don't know if I would have handled her as well as Bea did, so she and Bea, individually and together, were very admirable. Bea's Nan was also really cool. She played a key role in helping Bea grow into herself, and her careless actions, such as her loud outfits, un-shy comments, and optimistic input, also put smiles on my faces. Her quirky character reminded me of some of my own relatives. Bea's friends Betty and Kat were interesting as well. Betty was unconventional, funny, and fearless in her disinterest with cliches and status quos, and Kat, although was on the opposite side of the spectrum from Betty, turned out to be a better character than I expected. From the blurb, I thought she was going to completely betray Bea in the typically cruel jealous-friend fashion, but I was happy to find that she didn't. Even though she did leave Bea and from the very beginning showed herself as not the greatest friend, in my mind, she redeemed herself by the end of the book. Then, finally, Ollie was a sweetheart. I liked that his popularity and supposed utter hot-ness did not eclipse Bea and her character development, let alone create in him one of those cold, arrogant, or reserved heroes. He was nonchalant, yes, so much that his character's presence was only acknowledged in my mind because Bea and her friends thought he was cute, but he was also kind, caring, and charming enough to be liked. Even the secondary characters in Flirty Dancing stood out to me and they made the book all the more fun and interesting to read.

The plot of Flirty Dancing was neither boring nor overly-dramatic, and it was easy to follow with its straightforward conflict and easy pace. Beyond that, though, I honestly don't have much to say about it; the characters were what really kept me interested as I read. Maybe that is why I do not feel compelled to give Flirty Dancing a full five stars because the plot was nothing particularly special. Each event flowed logically to the next and there were little to no surprises in the book, which I liked and found refreshing as I did want an easy read. Since the length of the book is under two hundred pages, the easiness of the plot made Flirty Dancing all the more a light read. I didn't dislike the plot but I didn't find it in any way very exciting.

For a debut novel, I think McLachlan did a nice job creating and writing a story that is relatable and realistic but not overdone, illogical, or awkward. Her writing was easy to understand and it conveyed Bea's voice and thoughts really well. I usually like writing that is lyrical and descriptive, but I appreciated McLachlan's uncomplicated writing style. I also liked the sense of humor she put into the dialogue and actions of her characters, which was neither dry nor sarcastic but just plain comical. I'll definitely consider McLachlan's books if I am ever in the mood again to read something light and fun.

Flirty Dancing was a light, easy, fun read that brightened my mood after a stressful semester and a half. I recommend it to anyone and everyone in need of a mood lifter because the quirky and funny characters will make you laugh and smile as they did for me. However, as a note for those younger readers and/or those with more sensitive ears, I must warn that there is a little bit of explicit language in Flirty Dancing, such as the words b**ch, a**, and ar**. Other than that, Flirty Dancing is a great and humorous read.

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