Author: Carol M. Tanzman
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: November 15, 2011
Series: WiHi #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
A friend posted a video of me dancing online and now I'm now longer Alicia Ruffino. I'm dancergirl—and suddenly it's like me against the world—everyone's got opinions.
My admirers want more, the haters hate, my best friend Jacy—even he's acting weird. And some stranger isn't content to just watch anymore.
Ali, dancergirl. Whatever you know me as, however you've seen me online, I've trained my whole life to be the best dancer I can be. But if someone watching has their way, I could lose more than just my love of dancing.
I could lose my life.
Alicia is a character with whom I can't particularly identify, but can still appreciate and relate to in some ways. She's a dancer, and dancing is her love and her outlet for expression. In the beginning, Alicia likes being the center of attention. This changes, of course, once her privacy is violated. Sometimes Alicia is incredibly selfish, and in others she's extremely vulnerable. As a result, my feelings about her are a little mixed. But I think that her emotions make her sympathetic despite some of her shortcomings, many of which she does outgrow over the course of the story. Of her friends, the one who has the most depth is Jacy, who lives downstairs from Ali. He has some difficult obstacles of his own but is still there for Alicia when she really needs him to be, even when he's frustrated with her or wallowing in his own self-pity. Her vulnerable situation helps force him to ditch some of his depression. The rest of the characters are pretty minor but still have distinctive personalities with the occasional moment or comment that lends depth.
The pacing is a little slower at the beginning, but once Alicia begins having problems with her stalker then the tension makes things feel more urgent and the reading becomes quicker. A good portion of the plot consists of Ali looking over her shoulder or worrying, and these parts are fraught with tension. But there's also a significant portion of text devoted to her dancing. I like seeing this side of her because it gives her the depth of an internal struggle between dancing which she loves and the danger that she associates with dancing and the spotlight as a result of this person invading her privacy. It's also a beautiful contrast between the art of dance and the perturbing stalker who becomes this voyeur, an action which takes a beautiful art form in dance and twists it into something that is now tainted by an obsession or even perversion.
There is a little bit of romance in Dancergirl, but it is understated and doesn't take away from the seriousness of some of the issues and themes of the plot. Friendship and trust are concerns that Ali has to deal with as her paranoia at being followed and watched starts to affect her. The identity of the stalker is something that the characters are always trying to find out. I figured out who the stalker is pretty quickly and easily, so that little mystery wasn't really a mystery for me. The naive way in which the characters choose to handle the situation without telling Alicia's mom or going to the police does frustrate me. But if they had just done that then I suppose there wouldn't be much of a story to tell, so I can live with it even if I did sort of want to slap them for not reporting it. (Stalking is illegal!)
I did get more out of Dancergirl than I expected to. I am not sure if I just didn't read the synopsis carefully or what, but I didn't realize when I started that it would be about a stalking victim. I like the grittiness provided by that, especially contrasted with the ballet and modern dance. While occasionally a little dramatic or predictable, it is still a creepy thriller with some other meaningful content thrown in. I'd recommend it to fans of dance, mystery/thriller/suspense novels, and books in which romance isn't at the forefront of the character's thoughts. I should also add a content warning - the book contains a little bit of drinking and mild drug use (marijuana) by some of the characters.