The secret in this is that a girl in Jessi’s dance class has anorexia, and what really stands out in my mind is how Jessi confronts the girl. She tells the girl that she knows all the symptoms because she and her friends “looked it up in a book.” Which is okay, except for the fact that she then says she looked it up because she was worried about her. I must have been ten or eleven and still thought it was incredibly stupid of Jessi to tell the girl that’s the reason, instead of saying she was looking it up for a school project. Of course, the girl will get irritated at that.
Jessi volunteers to help teach a dance class for kids that her ballet school is giving. When she does, she starts getting to know this girl, Mary, from her class. Mary is obsessed with her weight and thinks if she could just lose ten pounds her dancing would approve. Jessi thinks this is crazy, because Mary is super-skinny. Then, she realizes that Mary never seems to eat, which makes Jessi worried. So, of course, this is all because Mary is anerexic. She keeps denying it, and gets annoyed at Jessi for mentioning it, but she eventually faints in class a couple times. Jessi finally claims she is going to tell their dance teacher, which gets the girl to admit it.
So, meanwhile, the class itself is for underprivileged children. Jessi enjoys teaching the kids (most of them), and thinks it is sad that they won’t be able to keep dancing once the program ends. Her friend Quint gives her the idea to get the dance school to arrange the scholarship for some of the kids. Watson hears about this, and decides to fund the scholarship himself. So, Jessi is all happy about what they have accomplished.
- During Jessi’s regular class she says that there is a piano player who plays for them to rehearse to. Does that seem believable? I can see if they were preparing for a show, but just for a regular class?
- Jessi talks about this girl, Carrie, who is the “oldest student in class.” She thinks that Carrie is nervous because she is about to graduate and hasn’t had a leading role. Do people really “graduate” from class like that? And are kids who want to dance professional going to be training at the same place as little kids?
- Claudia outfit: “She was wearing a neon green tank top under a white oversized man’s shirt and fuschia pink stirrup pants.” The top doesn’t sound so bad, but the pink stirrup pants kill it. However, I will admit to owning a pair back in the late eighties.
- Jessi is allowed to wear “non-traditional” clothes to the kid’s dance class, and is thrilled about it. However, I specifically remember her liking not having to think about it previously.
- Jessi’s own pick for workout clothes: “A neon green leotard and a pair of deep blue work-out pants with heavy yellow slouchy socks.” What is with all the neon green?
- Jessi, Mary, and the other students teaching the kids class go out to a Burger King after classes to get to know each other. Obviously, this is an issue for Mary. Jessi suggests she get a salad (this is before Jessi knows she is anorexic), and Mary is all, “there is so much fat in salad dressing.” She doesn’t have to get dressing.
- In this book Shannon has a lot of free time and wants to keep hanging out with Kristy. However, Kristy is apparently “too busy” for this. So, the other girls in the club tell Shannon to call them. Kristy is thrilled with this solution for a while, but then gets jealous when she sees her friends and Shannon doing things with out her. But the weirdest part is that no one can figure out why Kristy is annoyed whenever people talk about Shannon.
- Is it weird that everyone refers to Kristy’s grandmother as Mimi? Mrs. Brewer actually does this when talking to Stacey (as in, “Nannie will be home at…”). I don’t see that happening.
- The mother of a little girl who is one of Jessi’s favorites keeps staring at her in class. Jessi is all freaked out, but it turns out that the woman was watching her because she (the woman) was surprised to see a black person dancing. The woman is black too, and apparently someone had told her that her daughter could never be a dancer. So, it gives her hope or something. And that little girl is one that gets a scholarship.
- Quint writes Jessi a letter describing how he gets annoyed about girls who obsess with dieting in his ballet classes. Then he says, “I’m lucky guys don’t have to worry as much.” Not exactly the most sensitive attitude. I mean, eating disorders are a serious thing, but you can’t really judge people unless you know what they are going through.
- Jessi’s attitude isn’t really much better though. She is right that Mary is too skinny but she mentions how even though she watches her weight, she doesn’t struggle with it too much.
- Madame Noelle tells Mary to have chicken soup to get over her “virus,” and Jessi thinks that the advice is “wiser than she realizes.” But I am pretty sure a dance teacher has seen eating disorders before. And we do find out later Madame Noelle suspected Mary’s problem.
- Jessi has a lot of nerve for just walking up to her dance teacher and suggesting the school give out a scholarship. It worked out, since it is a BSC book, but still. It probably wouldn’t in most real life situations.
- There is something weird about how Watson just “decides” to sponsor the scholarship. I am not sure how, it just is.
- I don’t think this book really presents anorexia in the best way. It really is a psychological disorder, and it is presented as though it is just some girl taking dieting too far, and all she needs is to be told. It is like the Full House episode where D.J. had anorexia for a day.
- It also doesn’t present “underprivileged children” in the best way. Well, the book actually describes them as “less privileged.” First, the teacher is super-relaxed, and Jessi and the other assistants think she doesn’t expect anything from them. Then, she actually teaches them and gets them to perform a recital, and the assistants act like they helped her “accomplish something” and made the kids really happy. But I am not sure why they think that. The kids danced for six weeks and only two of them get to keep attending class.