Written by Jenny McLachlan
Published July 1st 2014
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
Bea Hogg is shy but fiery inside. When national dance competition Starwars comes to her school looking for talent, she wants to sign up. It's just a shame her best friend agreed to enter with school super cow Pearl Harris. Bea will fight back! But when school hottie, Ollie Matthews, who also happens to be Pearl’s boyfriend, decides to enter the competition with Bea, she will have more than a fight on her hands.This warm, nuanced, hilarious story about friendship, fortitude... And dancing is impossible not to fall in love with. Jenny’s voice is fresh and convincing, and she handles both darker and lighter elements of the story with equal panache.
At home, Bea is the older and doting sister to Emma, the flamboyant and quirky three year old. She's a loving daughter, bedroom dancer and now temporarily sharing a room with her fabulous grandmother. But it's when Bea leaves the safety of home and away from those who love her unconditionally, when the shy Bea takes over. Though she be but little, she is fierce. Bea repeats it like a mantra, but it doesn't seem to help her overcome the toxic Pearl, who is determined to make Bea's life unlivable. Luckily she had best friend Kat to rely on.
When it's announced that Starwars is searching for talent, Bea can't help but think back to her days as a junior in her dance group the Ladybirds, that once tied best friend, bully and now school outcast together. But when she assumes that she and best friend Kat will be entering together, it's yet another victory for Pearl, who had made it abundantly clear that Bea isn't welcome to join their dance troupe, she's the wrong size. But leave it up to Bea's grandmother to have a plan, and arranges dance classes for the now mortified Bea, who has just learned who her dance partner is, none other than Pearl's supposed boyfriend Ollie.
As the two practice each day for the competition, Bea and Ollie form a friendship. Pearl had Bea in her sights and begins the cruel taunts, the jostling in the halls and the anonymous text messages that should force Bea to withdraw from the competition. When Bea's personal life seems as though it is spiraling out of control, it's her mantra that keeps her going, though she be but little, she is fierce... And that's exactly what Bea plans to do.
When I discovered the synopsis for this one, I had assumed it was another light and fluffy teen romance, but it was so much more. Not since The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay, have I laughed so much. Snorting, unbridled and unattractive laughing, it was brilliant. Bea is the shy girl who has so much to say but lacks the confidence to speak out. I absolutely adored Bea, her inner thoughts and narrative were delivered with composure and a comedic timing that most authors would struggle to maintain, all from a debut author in Jenny McLachlan.
Flirty Dancing was incredibly engaging and entertaining, but also deals with intimidation, a first love, self confidence, and celebrates the unique, the quirky and the outrageously entertaining. It allows readers to experience a sense of family and belonging, while taking a lighthearted and heartwarming approach. I'm thrilled that this will be part of a series, following each one of the original Ladybirds. From the mock dance troupe The Panty Liners, to Bea's grandmother in what is clearly a pimp coat and cowboy hat, to adding 'arse' onto the end of nouns. Flirty Dancing was flirty, fabulous fun and I'm an instant fan of the fabulous Jenny McLachlan.