Book Reviews

Review: Turning by Joy L. Smith

Ballet books has taken my TBR as a storm and I’m so excited to add Turning to the mix. And what an emotional debut. It’s a story full of grief, radiance, and dance. There are so many times I read it and it was heart wrenching, but in the best way! Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Genie used to fouetté across the stage. Now the only thing she’s turning are the wheels to her wheelchair. Genie was the star pupil at her exclusive New York dance school, with a bright future and endless possibilities before her. Now that the future she’s spent years building toward has been snatched away, she can’t stand to be reminded of it—even if it means isolating herself from her best friends and her mother. The only wish this Genie has is to be left alone.

But then she meets Kyle, who also has a “used to be.” Kyle used to tumble and flip on a gymnastics mat, but a traumatic brain injury has sent him to the same physical therapist that Genie sees. With Kyle’s support, along with her best friend’s insistence that Genie’s time at the barre isn’t over yet, Genie starts to see a new path—one where she doesn’t have to be alone and she finally has the strength to heal from the past.

But healing also means confronting. Confronting the booze her mother, a recovering alcoholic, has been hiding under the kitchen sink; the ex-boyfriend who was there the night of the fall and won’t leave her alone; and Genie’s biggest, most terrifying secret: the fact that the accident may not have been so accidental after all.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: ableism, abortion, alcohlism, abuse, homophobia

Turning is emotional from start to finish. Genie’s story is full of anger, resentment, grief, and joy. Her story is one that begins with still reeling from her accident. From her entire relationship to her body, herself, and her future changing. Turning is about lashing out and making mistakes, about saying things out of pain you know will hurt because of how deeply you are hurting. Smith does not shy away from Genie’s rage and pain. At the same time, Smith celebrates Genie’s search for agency and evaluation of her future.

Turning is is very much a story about Genie (re)evaluating her family, both the ones who stick by you and the ones who leave. It’s also about toxic relationships and how we can be tempted to fall back into patterns. Breaking away from what we know, to (re)creating dreams, is a scary process. It’s one that takes a lot of work and soul searching to change. About how we see these patterns of love, of family, and how these experiences can shape us – whether we like it or not.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

In Turning, I loved Genie’s character as she processes her grief and rage, the mother/daughter relationship, and the ways her relationship to dance changes. It’s an emotional tour de force. This book also examines the pressures of being a dancer of color! At the core of Turning is a story of (self)love. Of how our visions of ourselves and lives change. How hard it is to admit when we are wrong, to take the steps to take care of ourselves, and to change our expectations and dreams.

Find Turning on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


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