Anything But Fine
by Tobias Madden
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Pub Date 29 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 31 Mar 2022
Page Street Publishing, Page Street Kids
All it takes is one missed step for your life to change forever.
Luca Mason knows exactly who he is and what he wants: In six months, he’s going to be accepted into the Australian Ballet School, leave his fancy private high school, and live his life as a star of the stage—at least that’s the plan until he falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his foot in a way he can never recover from.
With his dancing dreams dead on their feet, Luca loses his performing arts scholarship and transfers to the local public school, leaving behind all his ballet friends and his whole future on stage.
The only bright side is that he strikes up unlikely friendships with the nicest (and nerdiest) girl at his new school, Amina, and the gorgeous, popular, and (reportedly) straight school captain, Jordan Tanaka-Jones.
As Luca’s bond with Jordan grows stronger, he starts to wonder: who is he without ballet? And is he setting himself up for another heartbreak?
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 38 members
For Luca, dance is everything. Ballet is his whole life – his only friends are his ballet friends. His only social life comes from ballet. Even his elite private high school has given him a scholarship to attend so that they can boast about his talents. He is on the road to being accepted into the Australian Ballet School and to the life he has always wanted. Until a tumble down a flight of stairs shatters the bones in his foot. The doctors put in all of the plates and screws to put his foot back together, but tell him he will never be able to dance again.
And then Luca loses everything. He loses his first love – ballet. He alienates himself from his friends because he can't bear to listen to them talk about things he can no longer have. He pushes away his father. And he loses his scholarship and therefore his place at the private school, and has to change to the local public school instead. But a chance meeting with Jordan (cute and hot and athletic and unfortunately STRAIGHT), and a new friendship with the smart, quirky, irresistible Amina show Luca that maybe his life isn't quite over yet.
Madden's writing style is just so lovely, and he takes us along on this emotional roller coaster, and we never want to get off. I appreciated the way he showed us the aftermath of such a life-changing injury, and how Luca withdraws and then lashes out and how he makes mistakes, just as we all do. It's an honest look at how terrifying it can be when we are forced to imagine a new path in our lives. But also how rewarding and truly beautiful it can be when we allow ourselves to take that path.
Tobias Madden has earned insta-buy status with just this one book. I look forward to reading whatever he may write in the future.
This book is a really special book. It touches on so many different subjects but with care and attention.
It deals with mental health, loss but not of a parent but of capacity, which is a topic that's too rare, especially in Young Adult literature. It also offers the readers a beautiful love story, with its ups and downs, its good and bad times.
It also shows in a very honest way how friendships work and how to say stop and put up boundaries when said friendships become toxic.
The characters are interesting and lively, I've loved them all immediately.
I cannot recommend this book enough.
This is such a great debut, and while it's a solid dance novel, it's also SO much more!
The m.c., Luca, is 16 and a rising star ballet star at his performing arts high school when readers meet him. He's a favorite for potential acceptance into a company, and by all accounts, he has a promising career in dance lined up for his entire future (so, like, 30 in dance years). This is why it is particularly shocking that this all falls away early in the novel...pun intended. Fortunately, Luca has an incredibly supportive father (a widower) who is there to boost him when he begins to make realizations about how different his future may be from what he expected. Luca also has to grapple with other related changes in environment, people, and ability, and these all shift his circumstances and mentality dramatically. What he encounters would be a lot for anyone, and any person with a soul will ache for him even more because of how much loss and change he experiences at such a young age.
On the upside, one stable part of Luca's identity is his awareness and acceptance of his sexuality. I LOVE this part of the novel. This character has a supportive family but through changes in environment, he is able to reflect when and where he is accepted. Though other characters do explore their struggles with this part of their identity, Luca never does. He is not a victim, and he is not figuring out this part of himself; he knows. Of course, novels that include the finding yourself/understanding your sexuality/coming of age component are an essential part of the YA world, but it was utterly refreshing to read a kid who is messed up and questioning everything about himself EXCEPT for his sexuality. One reason I know I'll be recommending this one to students for a long time is because of this feature and how dramatically it differs from so many similar books for this audience.
Through this novel, readers get to see a flawed but likeable main character who is struggling with an incredible obstacle. In the process, he explores his friendships, his priorities, his romantic options, and his family connections, and this all happens with the added - but not constant stereotyping - of the dance school background.
Readers who are able to access the audio version of this text absolutely should. For me, the fabulous narrator added even more texture to Luca and his journey.
I'll be looking for more from Madden and excitedly recommending this one to my students in the meantime.
his is the swoon-worthy summer romance I had been waiting for!
Set against the backdrop of regional Victoria (so close to home I could almost taste it). This was the quintessential Australian coming of age story that a whole generation of kids that don't quite fit in and who aren't afraid to stand out need.
Luca loses everything he holds dear with one misplaced step; his very promising dance career, his ballet friends, his scholarship, and a school where he felt safe to be out.
Now Luca needs to start over and find who he is without ballet while he does it. Add in a secret relationship with a closeted popular boy and confronting some of the toxic friends of his past.
This book managed to be hilarious and heartwarming.
I wish we got to spend more time with Luca before his fall so we could also be invested in his ballet career and experience more fully the devastation he felt, but besides that this book was a fun, easy to read time.
This book is out now is Australia and will be released on the 29th of March in America.
Thank you @netgalley and @pagestreetkids for the ARC!
What if you had this whole plan about what you want to do after school? How you want your life to look? What you want to do and who you want to be?
Luca has a plan. Until his plan goes up in smoke.
And GOD but I felt every single step of this. During my studies, I also had a medical issue that kept me from pursuing my plan. My dream, if you will. Just like it hinders Luca from becoming a professional Ballet Dancer. And let me tell you, that is one devastating feeling. I can't imagine what I would have done at Luca's age.
Because there's anger (so much anger) and resentment and not wanting to be with people but not wanting to be alone and you realize that you're being difficult and that everyone around you is insanely annoyed at that point but you just can't help it. Because you just feel lost and you feel desperate and you feel numb.
Tobias Madden made me feel like in those few weeks after I was released from the Hospital with my diagnosis. Luca's voice thought and said exactly what I was feeling and still am feeling at times. This story was as hard to read as it was beautiful, just because it hurts. But!! Madden gave Luca the happy ending that he deserves. He turned the narrative and said: What if you get a new plan? What if you can reinvent yourself into something you hadn't thought about being but which fits you so well? What if your life will look different now but different doesn't mean worse.
I didn't realize how much I needed this book in my life and I am more than thankful that it exists. And I will be absolutely over the moon once I get my hands on a physical copy.
This book is terrific. Luca, a high school student, is focused on one thing above all else -- achieving his life's dream of being accepted into the Australian Ballet School and being on the path to a career as a professional ballet dancer. Everything seems on track, until he takes on wrong step and severely breaks his foot. All of the sudden, ballet is no longer a possibility. To make matters worse, he loses his performing arts scholarship to his private school and must move to the local public schools, where he has no friends.
Luca is really down, hobbling on his injured foot and without his close friends from his former school. But he soon makes some unexpected friendships: Amina, a nerdy and very friendly student at his new school, and Jordan, the popular soccer and rowing star who may be interested in a relationship beyond just being friends. As Luca spends more time in his new school and with his new friends, he is forced to address what type of relationship he wants with the new people in his life and explore what his identity is without ballet.
This was a charming and heartfelt read. It addresses important themes, including about identity, grief, and first loves, in the context of an engaging story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to what comes next from this author.
This is a story about finding yourself. Luca Mason's whole life revolves around ballet: he spends much of his time outside of school practicing, his friends are all other ballet dancers, and he has a performing arts scholarship to a fancy private school based on his talent. His goal is to be admitted to the Australian Ballet School, and he seems on the path to achieving his dream -- until he falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his foot in a way that seems to shatter his dreams.
As a result of that one moment, Luca's whole life is turned upside down. He loses his scholarship and is forced to leave his school and his friends and enroll in the local public school. There, he develops an instant friendship one one of the nerdiest, and nicest, girls at his new school, Amina. And after meeting in the lobby of their mutual rehab office, Luca also begins to develop a fledgling friendship with the popular, attractive, and seemingly straight soccer captain and rowing star, Jordan Tanaka-Jones. Luca is not sure what to make of his relationship with Jordan. Sometimes Jordan ignores him, other times he seems eager to develop a deeper connection. As Luca explores (obsesses?) over Jordan, and their relationship seems to take the central place in his life that ballet used to play, he is able to avoid processing the impact of his injury on his life. But as things grow increasingly more complicated, Luca is soon forced to confront what he has tried to ignore -- what does his future hold and what role will dance, and Jordan, play in it?
I so enjoyed this book. I read it in a single day. Luca's story was quite compelling.
Although sometimes painful, the author did a terrific job portraying Luca's often rocky journey from the life he had always imagined for himself to one where all of the key foundations he relied upon were gone and it was not clear what would take their place. Luca's relationship with his father was rich and nuanced, as both struggled with how to relate to the other as they navigated Luca's physical and emotional challenges. Most of all, Luca's relationship with Jordan was alternatively heartwarming and heartbreaking, as we see Jordan and Luca figure out what they mean to each other as they are both at important crossroads of their lives -- and not always handling it in the best way..
Very strongly recommended!
Our main character is Luca Mason who just before his chance to audition for the Australian Ballet School, thus fulfilling his life-long ambition, falls down the stairs and break his legs. His life is thrown into total upheaval: he loses his childhood dream, his scholarship, his friends, everything he sacrificed so much for. But he also gains new friends and then there's that cute guy in the waiting room of his physical therapist.
I immensely enjoyed reading <i>Anything But Fine</i>. We could truly feel Luca's despair, his anxiety, his inability to let go of his old life, while knowing he had to build a new one. No YA book is complete without a group of mean girls, some of whom turn out to be nice girls, new friends and new romances and this one had all. It was fun and light-hearted while serious and thought-provoking when it had to be.
I want to thank NetGalley and Page Street Publishing for the ARC, you made me smile a lot.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life when I was a teenager (which is a sentence I can write now that I am TWENTY YEARS OLD?????). I tried a lot of things at school: politics, journalism, theater — and none of it had that spark that you hear about, that moment when you know, “Hey, this is what I want to do.”
It wasn’t until I was 16 that I learned about the field of linguistics, and it wasn’t until I was 18 that I started to pursue writing YA fiction. And now I’m doing both of those things (and I’m also writing these silly book reviews). I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a metaphorical rug pulled from under my feet.
But that’s exactly what happens to the protagonist of Tobias Madden’s book “Anything but Fine.” Luca is a ballet dancer and has been for much of his life, and he knows exactly what he wants to do: audition for the Australian Ballet School and become a professional dancer. And then he falls down a flight of stairs, injuring his foot, and suddenly, his dreams are dead.
So Luca loses his ballet scholarship at his private school and has to transfer to public school, and he pretty much immediately falls in love with Jordan, the most popular boy at school, who is certainly, definitely, a hundred percent heterosexual. At the same time, he befriends an absolute Wendy of a girl, who shows him the ropes at his new school. But this whole time, Luca’s wondering: who is he without dancing?
What an adorable book. It’s been a minute since I read a YA coming of age queer romance, and it’s nice to return to my comfort zone. (To be fair, I’ve read many books recently that fit two or three of those four categories. Just not all of them at once.)
“Anything but Fine” hits all the tropes I’ve grown to expect in this genre — some sort of life-altering event has the main character questioning their self-concept, and then they also fall in love, and everything is so overwhelming but also entirely normal. I love how Madden does it here, the way he encapsulates all of Luca’s huge emotions over seemingly mundane things, because that really is what it’s like to be a queer teen.
Jordan’s character is another example of a trope well done. I’ve seen the dubiously straight jock love interest plenty of times — Nick from “Heartstopper,” Bram from “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” and Jack from “Check, Please,” just to name a few — and it’s always a pleasure watching the main character slowly but surely realize that, oh my god, the love interest likes them back, can you believe it?
In short: all my love for this very fun, very Australian book. Now, please excuse me while I have a crisis over being 20 years old and still reading YA books.
“Anything but Fine” comes out on March 15, 2022. I received a copy from the publisher, Page Street Kids, in exchange for an honest review.
I absolutely ADORED this book! From the first chapter I had a massive grin on my face and there were particular moments where I burst out laughing, which took me completely by surprise.
🧡 The representation is a true testament to the multicultural Australia I have been raised in and the various traditions and practices mentioned, are done in such an engaging yet informative manner. Madden shows us that whilst racism exists in a small portion, there is appreciation for the diversity of rich cultures that make up our communities.
🧡There is a broad range of themes that Madden explores including sexual identity, racism, bullying, social classism and metal health. I appreciate the way the book has been written where you are enjoying a moment or absorbed in an experience and suddenly you encouraged to consider varying points of view. There is the alternative perspective of an individual who is out and proud to someone who is grappling with understanding their sexual orientation and the fears and challenges this brings. Madden has delicately painted a picture of the reality of the ups and down of both scenarios.
🧡The heart of this book for me was the gorgeous MC, Luca. I connected with him immediately and felt like he was my best friend or little brother and there were so many moments where he is true to his emotions and I just wanted to give him a big hug. He’s funny, talented, kind, courageous and makes you believe that there is goodness in this world.
My heart is full after reading this stunning book and I am so incredibly proud of Tobias! It is author’s like Tobias and books like these that remind me that there is so much love in this world that we are worthy of and at the end of the day…love is love 🌈.
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