Anything But Fine was such a fun and feelsy contemporary.
Ex-ballerinas, injuries, gay teens, existential angst — it has it all. It also features some messy kids and their dramatic decisions, so when the character arcs kicked in, ahhh, it was nice watching these kids grow.
The story follows Luca, who is destined for the Australian Ballet School, until a freak-fall down the stairs shatters his ankle. Ballet was his entire life; he lived, breathed, and existed for dance. So to snatch that away and leave him a kid on crutches, with anxiety from the accident, no friends (because both jealousy and hurt drove him from his ballet circle) and forced to change schools…Luca is miserable. He is so miserable. There’s a lot of lashing out as Luca struggles to figure out his worth now. Moving on? He can’t do it. He starts channeling a lot of his obsessive focus into a crush. Enter Jordan Tanaka-Jones. Captain of the rowing team, the whole school’s in love with him, and he’s….straight.
I appreciated that even though Luca was a disaster, he was aware of it. He made the mistakes, but he grew from them. Like when his dad and he fought, they both found grace to apologise. Also his relationship with his dad is really heartfelt. They’re both dealing with grief so they are fractious together, but it’s always nice to see supportive parents in books.
The book also tackles the struggles of a queer teen relationship where when is out and the other is closeted. Jordan is really unsure about his sexuality and Luca is out and proud. There’s a lot of stress and angst as Jordan grapples with internal homophobia and insists any interaction with Luca stay hidden. Like he made some Super Jerk Decisions, but I also really feel for closeted teens so 😭 I get what he did what he did. And apart from the romance, there is also an amazingly close and epic friendship between Luca and Amina! Their insta-connection and loyalty to each other was really sweet 🥺 Amina is Indonesian and Muslim, and there were a few times where Luca was problematic and needed to be called out, but a lot of his arc was learning to look outside himself — and he did. He definitely became a better friend and ally to Amina.
It’s a story of rebuilding yourself when everything you thought you knew is stripped away. There are funny moments and grieving moments, and fantastic friendships and a softly angsty romance!
Thanks to Penguin Australia for the ARC! It’s out 31st of August 2021.
Luca is ready to audition for the Australian Ballet School. All it takes to crush his dreams is one missed step . . . and a broken foot.
Jordan is the gorgeous rowing star and school captain of Luca’s new school. Everyone says he’s straight – but Luca’s not so sure . . .
As their unlikely bond grows stronger, Luca starts to wonder: who is he without ballet? And is he setting himself up for another heartbreak?