Miriam has wanted nothing but to be a prima ballerina her whole life. She has worked hard to reach her goal and now she is the prima ballerina for Lulli Dance Company. But as graceful as ballet is when watching it, it is demanding and unforgiving to the performers.
Her years of hard work, extra practices, and pushing her body to get where she wanted to be have taken a toll and now all the injuries she’s suffered over the years are adding up and weakening her body. While practicing for the lead role in Swan Lake, Miriam badly injurers her ankle. The doctors tell her that this, along with other sprains over the past few months, will require some significant time to heal and she is advised to consider not dancing any more before something truly catastrophic happens.
But watching someone else dance her role is too much to bear and she leaves the hospital without a note from the doctor telling her it’s okay. She attempts to prove to the director that she’s when when she again injures her weakened ankle. She storms off and finds herself in an unfamiliar room where a magical pair of ballet slippers and a voice that speaks to her and encourage her to not stop fighting for her role.
Putting the toe shoes on, Miriam discovers that she’s as good as before. Better in fact. She’ll have no trouble dancing the pas de deux that caused her earlier injury. But that voice wants a little payment in return.
I enjoyed this graphic novel much more than I expected to and I think that’s because despite the supernatural element this is really a story about people. Perhaps a little overly-didactic for my tastes this book is likely targeted to tweens and teens and most likely to young girls. (I feel a little strange suggesting a gender bias today, but there are still occupations that are seen as being gender-specific.)
This is a coming-of-age story with Miriam learning a big life lesson and I think this confused me a little bit. Miriam comes across as a young adult (hence the coming of age) and yet she also comes across as a professional … someone who has worked many years to finally become the prima ballerina. I was confused but generally thought of Miriam as an older teen or possibly a young 20’s-something – this is more in keeping with the lessons she learns.
I have spent some time with arts professionals – actors, musicians, as well as dancers – and all of Miriam’s confidence as well as all her insecurities are very appropriately portrayed. These conflicting feelings are also recognizable in teens who are struggling with so many different emotions.
The story is strong based on the strength of Miriam’s character, as well as the many supporting characters (the weakest of them is the leading male dancer). I didn’t need the supernatural element of the voice and toe shoes to get the story as it was just a device to get Miriam from point A to point B in the storyline. I suppose that many readers are more likely to pick up a book with magic shoes or a shadow that speaks.
Typically, I am not a fan of this style of art – a very stylized look – but it absolutely works for this book. The elongated forms perfectly fits a story of dancers, and the simple, hard edges help create the conflicting emotions in the character.
Looking for a good book? Last Dance is a graphic novel by Hanna Schroy that delivers a wonderful coming of age story and will likely be enjoyed by young graphic novel readers.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher.
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author/artist: Hanna Schroy
publisher: Iron Circus Comics
paperback, 200 pages