By Shermaine Lim (22S03N)
Raffles Reads is a collaboration between Raffles Press and Times Reads which aims to promote a reading culture among Singaporean students.
“Not everybody can dance good, but everybody can dance.”
For Evie, the spirited protagonist of this story, love is a wasted concept. After a shocking revelation that left her family divided and her belief in love shaken, the once hopeless romantic finds herself forsaking her collection of romance novels at a nearby mobile library. There, she meets an enigmatic stranger who gifts her a mysterious book eponymously titled ‘Instructions for Dancing’ and an inexplicable gift: to see the past, present and future of any couple—including their inevitable end.
As she seeks to unravel the mystery of her newfound ability, Evie stumbles across an innocuous dance studio—La Brea Dance Studio—run by a kind couple who exude the very image of love. There, Evie meets her match, ‘X’, the free-spirited, spontaneous, witty, and extremely infuriating grandson of the owners of La Brea. As she begins dance lessons with the alluring ‘X’, Evie finds herself questioning her pessimistic beliefs, which are continually reinforced by watching the death of love between every couple she looks at.
Following her widely acclaimed novels, ‘Everything, Everything’ and ‘The Sun is also a Star’, Nicola Yoon strikes again with her riveting tale of a young girl finding her lost faith in love. Told in the perspective of her down-to-earth, strong-willed protagonist, Yoon intertwines the turmoils of high school alongside the budding confusion of young love, seamlessly capturing the details of friendship and heartbreak.
From the onset, Yoon establishes a strong personal voice of Evie, through her vibrant language that illustrates the wilful naivety of a character harbouring strong feelings of angst. While well-done, this template character may initially come off as a slightly cringey, stereotypical angsty teenager with no real depth. However, as the story progresses, her inner monologues become more bearable as it leans towards the narration of her experiences, straying away from the slightly intolerable ‘pick me’ thoughts.
That being said, what Yoon lacks in character realism, she more than compensates with her skill in crafting believable teenage banter. Conversations play a huge part in every story, and through her conversations we witness Evie’s evolving interactions with the people around her, alongside her inner monologue which together, crafts a narrative on her personal growth. Yoon has accurately encapsulated the realism of youths through heartfelt yet lighthearted conversations that flow naturally, highlighting the different dynamics between the various characters.
As we experience the story through Evie’s perspective, Yoon takes her time to develop the background of each character and situation, ensuring a comfortable pace that allows readers to immerse themselves within the story. Regrettably, the conclusion and eventual rounding of Evie’s character arc feels rushed towards the end, with the climax and eventual resolution spanning only 50 pages.
All in all, this lighthearted tale drives home the idea that the journey is always more important than the end.In spite of its shortcomings, Instructions for Dancing was an overall enjoyable read with a meaningful lesson.
If you’re looking for a lighthearted Y.A romance novel to pass time after a stressful morning of studying, Instructions for Dancing is just the right late afternoon read for you.
Final Verdict: Raffles Reads Approved