Review: AUDITION by Stasia Kehoe Ward (Debut Novel)

We’re about to enter the final week of author Stasia Kehoe Ward’s official blog tour for her debut novel AUDITION. Stasia has shared a special character vlog with A Backwards Story readers that really sheds some light onto the writing process! Keep reading to enter an amazing giveaway and read my review of this artistic new book!

Does Stasia’s vlog make you want to know more about AUDITION? Read on!

Author: Stasia Kehoe Ward
Release Date: Out Now (Oct. 13, 2011)
Publisher: Viking/Penguin
Received: ARC from author/publisher for review/blog tour


When high school junior Sara wins a coveted scholarship to study ballet, she must sacrifice everything for her new life as a professional dancer-in-training. Living in a strange city with a host family, she's deeply lonely-until she falls into the arms of Remington, a choreographer in his early twenties. At first, she loves being Rem's muse, but as she discovers a surprising passion for writing, she begins to question whether she's chosen the right path. Is Rem using her, or is it the other way around? And is dancing still her dream, or does she need something more? This debut novel in verse is as intense and romantic as it is eloquent.

“Dare I tell them that since I came here to dance
I have been giving pieces of my body away
To ridiculous diets,
To repeated injuries,
To Remington?
And that maybe
I think
With each bit of my body
I lose a little piece of my soul.”

Before AUDITION, I’d never read a verse novel before. Forgive the pun, but it felt as though verse was auditioning its potential for me in this debut novel by Stasia Kehoe Ward. It was showcasing that, like prose, it too could be seductive and draw readers in, bringing them closer to a character’s heart than they might otherwise get. The writing itself felt like a well-choreographed dance, each word relying on every other to pull together a whole performance.

The life of a dancer is a hard one, as AUDITION so eloquently shows readers. The main character, Sara, learned to dance in the neighborhood ballet teacher’s basement. She’s sent to audition for admittance to various dance academy’s and is offered a scholarship to the Jersey Ballet. While the school isn’t as prestigious as one other dancers are sent to, she holds onto the opportunity, having felt she might have been accepted nowhere. Her family sacrifices a lot for her expensive new life style that includes a prestigious high school and boarding with the family of ballet master Senõr Medrano. Growing up, dancing never consumed Sara’s life the way it does upon entering the Jersey Ballet. There is so much more pain and heart-ache at this level; it is a lifestyle for the truly dedicated at heart. Sara is not as experienced as others who had more prestigious teachers in the fast. She’s not necessarily as tall, as thin, as talented. She obsesses over her appearances and begins to diet in order to have something to talk about with the other girls. In a fashion that reminds me a bit of the movie CENTER STAGE, Sara falls for Remington, a choreographer in his early 20s. He introduces her to new things and opens her body to new experiences. Is this relationship a positive one, or is he taking more from Sara than she initially thought possible? Was dancing always the true holder of her heart, or was it something that she was guided toward by her mother? Is all of this pain, loneliness, and sacrifice worth it? Sara goes through so many of the who/what/when/where/why/how moments that every dancer at this level experiences and must decide the direction she wants her life to take on her own.

The addition of verse brings readers to the heart of Sara’s struggles, making it raw and more emotional. At the same time, because we so intensely feel Sara, we only see things through her eyes. The characters she cares less about are less developed, for example. I, for one, would have loved to see more of ballet master Senõr Medrano’s son Julio. He would have treated her better than Remington, in my opinion. Remington was a bit pompous, but I can see why a girl like Sara would be attracted to him. Ward’s above vlog talks more about Remington’s character and draws more light on him. I’m still not positive if verse is my first choice when reading because its nature makes it sparser than the prose I’m used to, but the style worked well for a book centered around the world of dance. Ashley from Basically Amazing Books recently did a guest post over at The Grammarian’s Reviews on why she loves verse and lists other recommendations for readers curious to read more verse. Books like AUDITION and BUNHEADS make me realize just how much my family and I might have sacrificed if I’d gotten the dance lessons I always begged for as a child. With such novels, I can live vicariously and dance without working up a sweat, getting bunions on my feet, or leaving the comfort of my bed. Being able to envision yourself in another world is the true power of the written word.


I really like the way the cover is peppered with lines from the book in the background, weaving themselves in the air like a living, breathing entity. The model’s expression is perfect. The way she’s looking at the male model portray Remington is full of so many meanings. On one hand, she looks entranced, staring right into her eyes as though she can’t look away from him. On the other, her mouth is pursed in such a way that it could be that she’s analyzing him and what he wants from her this time. I don’t think Sara ever fully trusts Remington, as infatuated as she is with him, and the model exudes that sentiment in her expression. Remington, on the other hand, looks laid-back and confident, sure of himself and once again getting his way. The dynamics work well together and create an attractive cover that hints at the story lying within.

And finally, what blog tour stop is complete without a shiny GIVEAWAY? Click the button below to shoot over to Stasia’s blog and enter to win one of three prize packs!

Enter Here!

One last thing! Upcoming Dance Event!

Marisa from The Writing Dancer and I are putting together a one-week event entitled DANCEAWAY for everyone as nutty about dance as we are! We’d love it if you featured our button on your blog or social site during the next couple of weeks to help promote our event!
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[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]