Friday, November 4, 2011

Book Review: dancergirl

Carol M. Tanzman

Release Date: 11/29/2011; HarlequinTEEN. 249 pages.

The internet is a fantastic tool for teaching and learning, but it can also be dangerous. Teenage dance enthusiast Alicia Ruffino learns firsthand just how true this can be in Carol Tanzman’s gripping and compelling new young adult novel. The book is a good cautionary tale for young people, but Tanzman’s voice is never preachy. Her approach makes dancergirl suspenseful enough to captivate even jaded readers.

Alicia’s problems start when she agrees to let a friend tape her dancing at a party. The friend- with Alicia’s permission- posts the video on a youtube-like site, where it garners thousands of views almost overnight. Alicia finds the attention frightening but exhilarating as friends point out the value of publicity for her future dance career.

As she becomes instantly recognizable, Alicia’s luck takes a turn for the worse. Videos she never agreed to start popping up. They include some of her dancing in her bedroom. She and her friends investigate, knowing there has to be a hidden camera and a digital peeping tom somewhere. Against Alicia’s will, her fame multiplies with each compromising video.

In one scene, a stranger at a restaurant approaches Alicia and asks, “aren’t you dancergirl?” before snapping Alicia’s picture. Alicia knows this picture will go on the internet. She cannot stop it. That aspect of the story gives it a postmodern quality- how do we define our identities when others make those decisions for us without our consent?

This question, and the tension of not knowing who is spying on Alicia, lead to a frightening climax and a conclusion that is worth the effort of reading. Tanzman uses misdirection and subterfuge to keep the reader in the dark along with Alicia. This book will resonate with high school students who might be grappling with self-image and internet boundaries. It is engaging enough for adult readers, including teachers and parents who have an interest in protecting young people online.


  1. Sounds like a great book, quite suspenseful. I bet it would make a terrific movie.

  2. Hi Barbara,

    Yes, it practically begs to be a movie because so many of Alicia's problems come from internet video clips.