Cover Image: When It All Syncs Up

When It All Syncs Up

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Member Reviews

Thank you, thank you, thank you to NetGalley and Annick Press for the eARC! WHEN IT ALL SYNCS UP was a stunning YA contemporary debut about mental health, love, and learning who you are. I will be thinking about this one for a long time. 

Note that there are some potentially triggering topics in this novel, so I'd recommend looking through the list of content and trigger warnings that the author provided on Goodreads.

WHEN IT ALL SYNCS UP tells the story of 16-year-old Aisha Bimi, one of the only Black ballerinas at her competitive ballet school in Alberta. After losing out on an important opportunity for her ballet career because her teacher doesn't think she "has the right look" for a ballet solo, Aisha transfers to a public arts school in Toronto where she reconnects with an old friend, meets a new friend who may be something more, and comes to terms with both her mental health struggles and her place in the ballet world. 

Is it too early to say that this is going to be one of my top books of 2023? The story dealt with so many important topics—mental health, sexuality, racism, bullying—and I appreciated how Ameyaw didn't shy away from the very real experiences these characters were going through. The writing was just so real and raw and honest. The characters themselves were all so layered and fleshed out—I loved Aisha as a narrator and really felt for her, and her love interest Ollie was so sweet while also dealing with a lot of difficult issues of his own. The bi rep was so great too. I'm also a sucker for stories set in Toronto, and so much about the setting and the characters had a very familiar Toronto feel to it. 

Overall, this story was engaging and heartbreaking, but ultimately very hopeful. Without spoiling anything, a highlight for me was the very powerful field trip scene. 

Annick has released a lot of great YA recently, and this is definitely another to add to that list. I'll for sure be keeping an eye out for future releases from this author, and I'd highly recommend adding WHEN IT ALL SYNCS UP to your 2023 TBR!
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this book gave me all the feels! i laughed, cried, smiled, and everything in between. this was the second book I've read in which i could sincerely connect to the main character and I really appreciate that.
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This story about a Black teen ballet dancer who deals with racism and bullying is raw and dark at times but simultaneously hopeful and feels incredibly personal. A great debut!

From the moment I started reading, Maya Ameyaw pulled me into the story, and I read breathlessly. My heart ached, and goosebumps danced on my skin. Not only because of Aisha but also because of Neil. Even though their struggles were the clearest, I had a soft spot for Ollie, this quiet and musical guy, who I wanted to hold and hug so much. When I realized what had happened to him, my stomach contracted. 

Mental health issues, racism, and bullying are a huge part of the story, but a lot more is going on, and if you get triggered easily, I’d strongly advise reading the trigger warnings carefully. As a Dutchie, I loved the references to Michaela DePrince, who danced at the Dutch National Ballet and played in the music video of Chef’Special ‘Afraid of the Dark’. That song, about mental health issues, including the video, is so fitting for this story, especially because Aisha mentions that she’s still so terrified to go to the dark places other 
dancers tackle with ease:

‘I am still afraid of the dark
Even though there's a sky full of stars
I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on the run
Can you leave a little light on?’ 

Even though this book isn’t marketed as an LGBTQ+ book there are subtle references in it. I loved those references about not being sure (yet) how to identify in sexuality and that it’s okay not being sure and not having a label. 

Maya, thank you for this wonderful debut! I read it in less than two days and can’t wait for your next book!
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(3.5 STARS) 

First I would like to say thank you to the author of this book, Maya Ameyaw for gifting me a digital ARC. She inspires me daily to keep chasing my own dreams. 

While When It All Syncs Up, is not my typical YA read, (I'm a romcom girlie through and through) it was an emotional story that doesn't shy away from tough topics.

Things I Loved About When It All Syncs Up :
- Therapy (The good, the bad, the ugly)
- Addresses tough topics (eating disorders, addiction, racism)
- Girls shooting their shot (I loved it felt so proud of Ish!)
- Sharing playlists with your crush (My absolute love language)
- Learning more about the Black Ballerina experience (There are more Black ballerinas besides Misty Copeland people!)

I also really appreciated Aisha and Neil’s secret being kept for the climax, it was built up well and was satisfying to see the tension implode. In regards to Ollie's confession, I would have loved to have found it out a bit earlier. He was mostly quiet for 70% and never fully expressed himself. It would have been nice to see them have more discussions about his confession and help readers understand why they really connect.
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Big thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book.

As soon as I saw this was a queer ballet book, I was so here for it and I was not disappointed!

Aisha is a black ballet dancer but at her last school, once again didn't get the part because she didn't "look" the part. Enough is enough. Her best friend Neil convinces her to go to his school, but similar issues still arise. There is still discrimination and politics involved but at this new school she starts to fall for Neil's best friend, but also has to deal with her own traumatic past and Neil's, while trying to overcome the harassment from her fellow ballet dancers.

This book was really good and deals with a lot of deep issues. Some trigger warnings for the book include racism, disordered eating, depression, alcohol abuse, and anxiety. I really enjoyed how the characters interacted with each other and Aisha's characterization. She felt very real and has to overcome many obstacles in her short life. I also enjoyed all the details about ballet and dance. I highly recommend this book and can't wait for the author's next book!
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Thank you to NetGalley and Annick Press for the opportunity to read an advanced reader's copy of this book for an honest review. (Publish Date: May 2, 2023)

“When it All Syncs Up” by Maya Ameyaw was an unexpectedly emotional book for me. The writing was so real and raw at times that I felt guilty being exposed to the characters’ vulnerable moments.

The story follows 16-year-old Aisha Bimi. She loves dancing and attends an elite ballet academy. However, no matter how hard Aisha works, she’s never chosen for leads due to her skin color. However, after visiting her best friend Neil and being fascinated by the art school he attends, Aisha decides to transfer to his school for her junior year of high school and start fresh.

Once she switches schools, Aisha’s talent is obvious to the instructors and she starts to receive the recognition she deserves. Aisha finally allows herself to relax, make new friends, have fun, enjoy being a teenager, and even consider the possibility of dating.

Just when things are starting to finally go right for her, Aisha’s past problems begin to creep back in with constant pressure, bullying, and discrimination weighing her down again. As she nears her breaking point, Aisha’s life takes an unexpected turn. With positive support, truly looking inside herself for answers, and allowing herself to trust others to heal, Aisha’s strength and wisdom begin to truly shine.

Aisha’s so relatable and endearing that I couldn’t help but feel immediately drawn to her. I was routing for her the entire book and felt such great love for her. I hope the author considers writing a sequel, because I’m dying to know more about Aisha’s story and what happens her senior year!

I would highly recommend this book from mid-teens to adult readers due to some drug use, underage drinking, adult language, and sensitive issues like racial discrimination, addiction, trauma/mental health, and eating disorders.
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Maya has crafted a beautifully raw yet tender look at what happens when determination becomes detrimental with When It All Syncs Up. The care and love poured into the subject matter in this book shines through her writing, and I found myself caring for these characters in a very authentic way. For as heavy as the story gets at times, there is a quiet, ever-present spirit of hope woven throughout Aisha's narrative that makes the ending all the more satisfying. What a wonderful debut!
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Soo many important topics covered in this book (abuse, racism, eating disorders, depression, etc). Holy cow. I'm glad a YA book like this exists.

However, the book felt like a diary. Sort of a "today I went to x and did y and so and so said z". Not so much storytelling and more of reading a sequence of events. I struggled with that. The book is easy to read and fast paced, but I felt like I wanted more out of the book.
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4.5 stars!

There's a fine line between writing about serious topics and taking readers on the journey of serious topics without simply going for shock value. Maya Ameyaw toes that line beautifully. 

It's important that realistic fiction isn't a sunshine and rainbows approach, but rather a complex array of emotions, experiences, and failures. Aisha, Neil, and Ollie each have distinct backgrounds, personal interests, and goals; yet, they find ways to support each other, even when they don't agree. 

I liked seeing each character stumble, and fall, and fly. Life is messy. Hormones, not-quite-developed brains, balancing being a kid vs responsibilities.... it doesn't make navigating every day issues like crushes, classes, and parents any easier, so I think that while not every reader will connect with the dancing and singing aspects of the characters, there's still relatability in the shared experiences.

The wrap up was slightly too neat for me, but sometimes life DOES work out, and it's okay to show that, too. 

I'll need to tell my students about: mature language, sexual scenes, violence, mental health, verbal abuse, eating disorders, alcohol, drugs, divorce, LQBTQIAP+, racial discrimination

**Thank you to NetGalley and Annick Press Ltd. for the free ARC prior to publication. All opinions 
expressed are my own.**
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An absolutely stunning novel, WHEN IT ALL SYNCS UP has a voice that is both grounded and gorgeous, and a quick pacing that makes it impossible to put down. An exploration of trauma and healing, it is such an important story that will mean the world to readers and stay with them long after the final page.
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