Turning by Joy L. Smith

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Turning

Author: Joy L. Smith

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Paraplegic Black Depressed MC, TBI character, Hispanic character, OCD character

Recommended For…: young adult readers, contemporary, realistic fiction, paraplegic MC

Publication Date: March 1, 2022

Genre: YA Contemporary

Age Relevance: 16+ (language, internalized abelism, abelism, alcoholism, abortion, blackmail, domestic violence, depression, sexual content, sexual coercion, forced pregnancy, underage alcohol consumption, gore, homophobia, drugs, racism, grief, and violence)

Explanation of Above: This book talks about the MC’s change in her life after a traumatic incident leaves her paralyzed from the waist down (L1-L3 spinal cord injury) and how she reacts to it. There is a lot of discussion around abelism and internalized abelism surrounding that, as well as grieving of what she has lost due to that injury. There is a bit of cursing in the book and mentions of alcoholism in an adult character and underage alcohol consumption. There are mentions of an abortion throughout the book and how a character deals with it. There are mentions of blackmail, flashback scenes of domestic violence, gore involving blood, and violence involving punching and kicking that is shown in one scene. Depression is shown throughout the book. There are flashback scenes involving slight sexual content in the book, and mentions of sexual coercion and attempted forced pregnancy. There are a couple of insults that are homophobic thrown towards two characters. There are very small mentions of drugs in the book and racism is also slightly present as well.

Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Pages: 352

Synopsis: 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.

Review: For the most part I really liked this book. The book is very raw and deals with an onslaught of different emotions in the wake of an accident that leaves our MC paralyzed. She was once a ballerina, but is now facing a world where she can’t dance anymore. I thought while the book had internalized abelism that the author was able to navigate the issue well and explore the MC coming to terms with her new life. I also enjoyed how the author was able to show the dysfunctional relationship and bit of generational trauma in the MC. The character development was well done and the world building was great. Definitely one book you need to grab tissues before reading.

The only issue I had with the book is that I felt like it needed a happier ending and that I’m a bit sad that some things felt unfinished, but such is life. I also felt that there was very little positive influence in Genie’s life. Every parent was shitty. The ex was shitty. The friends were… meh. I was like “damn can this girl get a break?!”

Verdict: It’s super well done!