Review: Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo

Up to this Pointe by Jennifer Longo

She had a plan. It went south.

Harper is a dancer. She and her best friend, Kate, have one goal: becoming professional ballerinas. And Harper won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of The Plan, not even the boy she and Kate are both drawn to.

Harper is a Scott. She’s related to Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who died racing to the South Pole. So when Harper’s life takes an unexpected turn, she finagles (read: lies) her way to the icy dark of McMurdo Station . . . in Antarctica. Extreme, but somehow fitting—apparently she has always been in the dark, dancing on ice this whole time. And no one warned her. Not her family, not her best friend, not even the boy who has somehow found a way into her heart.

Title: Up to This Pointe
Author: Jennifer Longo
Publication date: January 19, 2016

I received an ARC of Up to this Pointe from Random House in exchange for an honest review. After reading Six Feet Over It last year, I was excited when I was given the opportunity to review Up to this Pointe and join the blog tour, and I wasn’t disappointed. I loved it!

Up to This Pointe starts in the present, with Harper arriving in Antarctica, and tells the story of what happened to get her there in flashbacks.

Harper and Kate, best friends since forever, have been planning for their lives as professional ballet dancers for years. The Plan is to graduate early from high school, audition for (and get into) the San Francisco Ballet, get part-time jobs to supplement their meager ballet earnings, and move into an apartment together. Based on the synopsis of the book, you can probably guess what happens. It’s not uncommon. Maybe it even happened to you. You and your best friend planned to go to college together, be roommates, and join the same sorority, but one of you got into Harvard/couldn’t afford anything other than community college/wanted to go to college with a boyfriend/decided not to go to college.

Despite knowing little about ballet other than watching Breaking Pointe for two seasons, it’s easy to feel for Harper. She’s been on one course for her entire life and suddenly, without warning, it’s not an option anymore. But when does anyone’s life ever go to Plan? Or even plan? Harper’s reaction is more extreme than most, and she ends up in Antarctica for the winter in a (fictional) internship program for teens.

I was never much interested in Antarctica and I was unfamiliar with the history of the continent. After some additional reading, I learned that that it was first discovered in 1820 by a Russian naval officer and the first (accidental) “winter over” occurred in 1821. But in this book, the only explorers that matter are Robert Falcon Scott (Harper’s ancestor), Ernest Shackleton, and Roald Amundsen. This ties into the one part of the book I didn’t care for. There are several times that Harper dreams/hallucinates/imagines conversations with Shackleton. He (or Harper’s mind) always has sage advice and in the end, leads her to the answers she seeks, but I just couldn’t get into this part. I felt impatient during those scenes, rolled my eyes a bit, and wished there had been another way for Harper to discover what she wants for her life.

Everything else about Antarctica was great. I wouldn’t want to make the trip, but it’s an interesting place to read about. I loved reading about the penguins, McMurdo Station, and the people who live and work in Antarctica with Harper. Her supervisor Charlotte and her coworker Vivian are both well-developed characters. At first Vivian’s closed-off and hard to get to know, but through the months, she learns to open up and gets to know Harper.

Harper has two romantic possibilities — one in San Francisco and one at McMurdo — and I fell for the wrong one, of course! Really I could have gone either way, so I’m not too upset at not picking the one Harper ends up with in the end. The book covers Harper’s entire stay on The Ice. By the time she leaves, she has a much clearer picture of her future, and I’m glad I was along for her journey to making those decisions. I just hope that this time, her plans don’t fall apart.

five stars