I Wanna Be Where You Are
by Kristina Forest
This book is one of my backlogged Netgalley ARC’s. So much so, that I was able to pick up a physical copy from my library, and get to see this gorgeous cover up close!
This novel follows a high school student named Chloe, as she lies to her mom for the very first time, goes on a road trip in an attempt to follow her dreams, and gets stuck with her not-at-all-unattractive neighbor and his dog. What got me really excited to read this novel was the fact that Chloe is a dancer, and she is pursuing her passion to go to a performing arts college after high school.
Incoming background information on the blogger you didn’t ask for: I danced for over twenty years. I did styles including tap, jazz, contemporary, ballet, pointe, and hip hop. Dancing was a huge passion of mine, and I thought I was going to dance professionally for the rest of my life. That was until my senior year when I had a career ending injury.
As we soon discover, Chloe also suffered a pretty major injury a year before her story starts. I cannot express how accurate the portrayal of her injury, mindset, and her come back story are in relation to my own experiences. The only difference is that Chloe was able to get back to performing at the level she was at before her injury, and I did not.
It was amazing to read about a dancer who had felt like they were on top of the world, could tackle any role, and then lose all the confidence they’d spent years acquiring. There is a strong sense of imposter syndrome for Chloe, who learns to overcome that with the unexpected help of her neighbor, Eli.
I wasn’t sure how this story was going to evolve. From the synopsis it seemed like we were simply going from point A. to point B. So how did that equate to a two hundred plus page book? I figured out pretty quickly that this road trip would have some major speed bumps along the way.
Despite the seemingly self explanatory plot, this book left a lot for the reader to unpack. Chloe deals with what it felt like to realize she didn’t look like the other dancers in her studio, as her body developed and her skin tone stood in stark contrast to the dancers around her. Chloe and Eli both struggle to see eye to eye with their parents in regards to their futures in the art and performing art world. We saw a character who evolved into herself once she was able to go off to college, and get out from under her parents. And we watched characters as they began to come out of the closet, and the transformation they made over the next few years into confident young men.
I really appreciated that everyone can find a little piece of themselves in this story, and in these characters. It was also the quintessential young adult contemporary novel, rife with innocent rebellion (generally speaking), first love, following your dreams, teenage drama, parental drama, realizing how close college is to becoming your reality, and of course, prom. It would be completely remiss of me not to mention how wonderful Eli’s dog, Gus, is as a character throughout the novel.
I thought the writing style was accessible and descriptive. The best parts for me were when Chloe would describe dancing, or how her anxiety would manifest after the injury. I also appreciated that this story didn’t wrap itself up in a neat little bow at the end. The ending was realistic, but incredibly optimistic as well.
Despite this story, on paper, having everything I love, it didn’t pack the emotional punch I wanted. This was a sweet, slice of life contemporary novel that was a very quick read. I think this book is perfect for teenagers, or anyone who once called themselves a dancer.