Kisses and Croissants


Publication Date: 3 Aug. 2021

ISBN 9780593375884

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    Mis Jenrow has always known she's destined to be a professional ballerina. In fact, it's in her blood--according to family legend, her too-many-greats-to-count-grandmother once danced for the Paris Opera and was painted by Degas himself! Her parents say it's just a fantasy, but to Mia it's so much more than that. It's her fate.

    Mia is planning to spend a magical summer in France pursuing her dream, but as she pirouettes into Paris, she soon realizes it may be a bit more complicated than she hoped. For starters, there's her rival, Audrey, who will stop at nothing to show her up. There's her ballet instructor, whose impossibly high standards push her to the breaking point. And then... there's Louis. Devastatingly, distractingly charming Louis. He's eager to show Mia his city--and Mia is more than happy to hop on his Vespa and wrap her arms around him as they pass the gleaming lights of the Eiffel Tower. Mia's summer was supposed to be about ballet--but there's a reason Paris is called the City of Love...

    Information

    Book Type: Senior High
    Age Group: 15 years +
    Traffic Lights: Green/Amber
    Class Novel: No
    Good Reads Rating: 5/5
    Literary Rating: 5/5

    Review

    Mia Jenrow's grandmother has always told her that ballet is in their blood. The story goes that one of her ancestors was a ballerina in Paris when Degas was painting, and he painted a portrait of her. Without any details, this is impossible to verify; it's a point of contention between Mia, who wants to believe that she's meant to be a professional ballerina, and her mother, who wants her to have a plan B.

    Mia doesn't get into the summer program at the American Ballet Theatre, but she is accepted into a program at L'Institut de l'Opera de Paris. During the performance at the end of this program, representatives from prestigious ballet companies from around the world will see her perform--including ABT. This is a huge opportunity--and when her grandmother gives her the details for her great aunt Vivienne, a Frenchwoman who may know about her mysterious ancestor, everything falls into place.

    Mia finds out that her biggest rival, Audrey, has also been accepted into the program. Audrey has been classed as a Level 5, while Mia is a Level 4--still an excellent achievement, but reflective of Audrey's technically-perfect dancing style. It's a huge surprise when Mia is brought up to Level 5. Their teacher Monsieur Dabrowski is incredibly harsh, but he says he sees great skill in Mia.

    He comments that while Audrey's dancing is technically perfect, she has no emotion; meanwhile, Mia's dancing is emotive but has technical faults.

    Mia meets a handsome French boy called Louis--Monsieur Dabrowski's son--outside class one day, and he soon starts to show her around Paris. Mia wants to keep her concentration on dancing, but when Louis offers to help her search for her family history, she can't resist. Louis doesn't have Mia's passion: he was raised by two parents who put their life's work above their family and prefers to live in the moment. They agree to keep their connection a secret. They visit her great aunt, who has dated photographs of their ancestor Élise Mercier, a ballerina they believe might have been painted by Degas. Louis has connections in the art world, and he promises to ask around.

    Meanwhile, Mia has been assigned the role of Odile in Swan Lake while Audrey has been cast as Odette. Mia is doing well training for the technically challenging role of Odile until the midterm showcase, where she misses a step. Monsieur Dabrowski comes down on her hard, saying that she's not the first ballerina to be distracted by Louis and that she needs to focus. Mia breaks it off with Louis, saying that he couldn't understand how important dancing is to her because he has no passion.

    Mia works with Audrey to correct each other's flaws: Mia takes technical tips from Audrey and takes her out dancing on the street to open her up to emotion. Audrey confesses that while Mia's mother is unsupportive, her own is controlling: she insists that Audrey join the Bolshoi Ballet instead of ABT. Mia realises that she doesn't need to separate her love for Louis, her passion for dancing, and her curiosity about her family history. She and Louis get back together and discover the painting they believe may be of Élise.

    At the showcase, Audrey and Mia are both stunning. Louis takes Mia to see a mural he painted of her--he's rediscovered his love of painting and hopes to go to university in the US so they can stay together. But disaster strikes straight afterward when Mia and Louis are in a car accident, leaving Mia with a broken collarbone. She misses the auditions she'd been invited to based on her performance in the showcase--the auditions that meant everything to her, because they meant joining the ABT. Audrey joins the ABT against her mother's wishes, while Mia reconnects with her own mother, who admits that it was her own past of failed dancing dreams that prevented her from supporting Mia. But luckily, Mia is able to join L'Institut de l'Opera de Paris--and Louis--once she's recovered.

    A sweet and heartwarming story about the power of hard work and love. Mia at first thinks that she needs to sacrifice her own life and put everything into ballet, but she soon realises that her loves are all connected: Paris, L'Institut de l'Opera de Paris, Louis, Élise Mercier, ballet. She can put everything she has into pursuing what she loves all at once.

    Through her friendship with Audrey, she learns valuable lessons about moving past initial differences to forge connections, and gets another perspective on what it means to persevere.

    Through her relationship with Louis, she discovers not just the sweetness of first love but the importance of putting work into that love to make it grow. A highly recommended read for dancers, francophiles, and lovers of romance.

    Themes

    ballet, romance, Paris, travel, friendship, perseverance, hard work, passion, dreams, family history, art history

    Content Notes

    1. Mia recalls kissing her first boyfriend Cameron (p. 28). Mia and Louis kiss (p. 182, 242, 246, 264, 273, 277, 278, 307, 311). Louis recalls going to parties and hooking up with girls after a breakup (p. 226). 2. Mia and Louis are 17, but drink alcohol as this is the norm in France (p. 73, 149, 158, 176).

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