DANCE WITH ME
by Judith Crow
GENRE: YA (Fantasy)
Don’t tell anyone, but Kelli spends all her free time listening to folk music. Ok, it’s not what you’d expect from a popular fifteen-year-old, but that’s why she doesn’t want the whole world to know.
When Kelli follows the mysterious Tam Lane, she finds herself in a place where folk songs come to life. As she comes to terms with the world, she makes friends, uses her privilege to help others, and even falls in love.
But Kelli has forgotten the fates which await so many characters in the songs, and she soon finds herself surrounded by heartbreak. Determined to protect the people she has left, can Kelli change a fate which has been sung for centuries?
“So, what is Carterhaugh?”
“It’s in the Scottish borders,” he replied. “You must have heard of it before, Kelli.”
Kelli thought about it. The name sounded familiar, but she knew nothing about Scotland to speak of, and certainly nothing beyond the visitor attractions in Edinburgh. “I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know where.”
“Well, it’s a kind of gateway,” Tam explained. “There are beautiful gardens, and the land is very fertile so it is said that any seed to touch the earth will grow into the greatest of its kind. It was the birthplace of the ancient kings.”
“What does that have to do with me?” Kelli asked. “Or with Jehovah’s Witnesses for that matter?”
“Nothing at all,” Tam replied. “But you must have asked about it for a reason.”
“Yes, I did,” Kelli said, thrusting the magazine back into Tam’s hands with her thumb marking the last page. It fell open as Tam took it from her, and a picture of smiling children covered most of the back page, with the title ‘Bible Questions Answered’ and a small amount of text.
“It was there!” Kelli said, a shiver running down her spine. She flicked through the magazine, but the page was nowhere to be seen. “It was there. There was a picture of a wood and a river.”
“That is Carterhaugh,” Tam said. “The birthplace of kings. You should go there. You’d like it.”
“How would you know?”
Dance With Me is a well-written story with a fascinating premise. A mysterious young man named Tam Lane shows up at the home of Kelli, a disenchanted teenager who has just broken up with her boyfriend and feels disconnected from her family. When Kelli agrees to dance with Tam, he whisks her into the past.
There is no strong profanity in the book and the romantic interactions are described more in terms of emotion than action. There are no explicit descriptions of violence, however, several characters die in unpleasant ways.
I enjoyed the way that the lines from various folk ballads tied in with each chapter and the view into what it would be like to live in the Middle Ages in Scotland. I don't recommend it. Life was very difficult and had a tendency to be short. The descriptions of the places and scenarios that Kelli encounters are realistic and rather bleak rather than being romantic and glamorous. Women are seen as the property of men and are expected to be quiet and obedient.
I give Dance With Me four out of five stars. The story is compelling and competently written, but I dislike it enough when stories written for adult women obsess on weight and dieting. This narrative is even more damaging when stories with adolescent girls as the target audience do so. Eating disorders are a serious problem, and passages such as this normalize and reinforce diet culture.
"Kelli had not taken part in any exercise and was becoming aware that, even during the week, she had been forced to loosen some of the laces on the dresses Ailric had gifted her. She wondered what Marcus would say if he could see how she had put on weight. Probably something like ‘I don’t believe a perfect ten can be a twelve, chunky-monkey’. She vowed she would lose the weight again within the next week."
As someone who tried to hate herself thin for 33 years, I would love it if authors would rethink including this sort of narrative in their stories. I would have loved it if Kelli had thought something like "but Marcus was an idiot, and she was glad that she had broken up with him. She couldn't be bothered to dwell on such nonsense now."
I would have given the book five stars if it had not included this unwanted helping of size shaming and diet talk.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Judith was born in Orkney, grew up in Lincolnshire, and now lives in the far north of Scotland. Her writing is inspired by the experiences of her life so far and she loves picking up on quirks and immortalising them in fiction.
Judith’s new book, Dance With Me, combines her love of folk music and creative writing, and finds her main character in a world where folk songs come to life. Her debut book, The Backwater, was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2019.
When she isn’t writing, Judith is a primary school teacher who enjoys crafting and music, as well as being a generally doting spaniel owner.
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