Boys Don't Dance

Boys Don't Dance

by Ivy Whitaker

There are so many expectations bound up in this book.

From a plot standpoint, our author heroine (Lyra, a name I absolutely love) flees sunny California for the rundown mid-Atlantic foothills of Pennsylvania when her sister falls victim to a stroke. Lyra tries to meet the expectations of being a devoted sister as best she can, while also trying to stave off what's expected of a multiple-time best-selling author after a flop (namely: Write more, better).

This, of course, is complicated when she runs into her childhood best friend/love, Alex. Alex has not only felt the weight of the expectations of others, she has flat-out surrendered to them. Her mother expected her to marry a man and live the life of a stay-at-home mom, and only upon reacquainting herself with the force that is Lyra does she start to realize the crushing burdens of those expectations.

This book felt challenging - In a good way, mind you! But by no means an easy or breezy read.

Part of that, I think, lay in the expectations on my part. Expectations affect everything we do, from consuming media to consuming food to how we relate to other people. If we have an expectation, even if we don't realize it ourselves, failing to have that expectation met can leave you feeling off-kilter, or disappointed.

To put it bluntly, I expected a simple sapphic romance. It's more than that! Better in many ways, with lyrical prose and extremely vivid depictions of emotions and connection. And certainly much deeper in terms of the difficult subject matter it deals with.

But in its (successful, in my eyes) aspirations to literary fiction, the novel's insistence on hitting some of the simplistic romance tropes felt forced. I think the book would have worked much better had it simply shed its romance-constrained plot points and just kept exploring and exposing its beating heart, which was otherwise mesmerizing.

Expectations are a double-edged sword. I've no doubt "sapphic romance" has some advantages for marketing purposes, and with that designation comes certain expectations. I just think this book is better than that, and I'm only sorry it seems to try shape itself to a form it has clearly outgrown.

All that said, this book is a lovely, wonderful piece of work. And I truly can't wait to see what the author will do next.

I bet you didn't expect a book review. Well, count us both slightly disappointed but eager to see what comes next (I hope)