Flirty Dancing follows the story of Bea Hogg, a shy fourteen-year-old girl, who only let’s her feisty side out at home. A national dance competition called Starwars comes to her school looking for talent and Bea is eager to take part. However, her best friend ditches her and joins the popular girl, Pearl’s, dancing group instead. Left without a partner, Bea’s nan calls in a favour with a friend and finds Bea a jive partner. That partner just so happens to be Ollie Matthews, the school hottie and Pearl’s ‘boyfriend’. Consequently, Bea becomes Pearl’s target and loses her best friend at the same time. Despite this, she discovers a love of dancing and learns some important life lessons along the way.
This book focuses mostly on Bea and you see her develop from a shy and quiet girl into a confident and feisty young girl. She is badly bullied at the beginning of the novel, but by the end of it, she is defending those even less fortunate than herself. What’s great is that Bea doesn’t change who she is, it only her attitude that changes. She doesn’t suddenly become popular or cool but she comes to terms with the fact that she is who she is and that person is awesome. This is an important life lesson for a young girl and I think this theme is developed brilliantly. Bea is certainly an inspirational character and a great role model for teenage girls.
The relationship that Bea has with her family, especially her nan, is really heart-warming. It’s nice to see a novel aimed at young teens that manages to encompass friends, family and first love all in one novel. However, I was really disappointed by the other inter-character relations and the general character development of anyone other than Bea. Although Ollie is a ‘main’ character, we don’t actually hear about him and his personality that much and we never really get inside his head. I guess Bea doesn’t really know much about him either, apart from the fact that he is super hot, which could explain this.
The supporting characters seemed a little flat, with Pearl, the bully, fulfilling her role as the stereotypical popular girl and Bea’s sister Emma being a typically annoying three-year-old. Bea is really the only character that has much depth, which is a shame, but for such a short book, I suppose fleshing out all the characters would be difficult.
The main focus of the book is Bea’s development and the dancing competition, which doesn’t leave much room for any other story lines, hence they seem quite rushed. At the very beginning of the book, Bea is dumped by her best friend Kat, who joins popular girl Pearl’s dance group. When we first meet Kat she seems like a great friend and a funny character but suddenly that all changes and we do not hear much about her throughout the rest of the novel. Then at the end, Kat makes a reappearance and is obviously very sorry for being a terrible friend and suddenly all is well again. This ‘too-good-to-be-true’ happy ending was not for me, but should appeal to the target audience.
All in all, this is a light teenage read that manages to include some good messages about self-empowerment, self belief and the importance of family. It’s not the most original of stories but the dancing element is unique. The short length of the novel meant that there was little room for much development or many subplots, which was a shame, but perhaps I am expecting too much of a novel aimed at young readers. I am definitely in the wrong age group for Flirty Dancing, but I can imagine that this book would go down quite well with young teens. I read the entire book in around two hours, so it’s perfect for reading on a train journey somewhere. I’d recommend this story to young girls aged 11-15 to really get the most out of this story.
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