Review: Anything But Fine by Tobias Madden

Anything But Fine by Tobias Madden

Anything But Fine
Tobias Madden
Page Street Kids
Published March 29, 2022

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About Anything But Fine

All it takes is one missed step for your life to change forever.

Luca Mason knows exactly who he is and what he wants: In six months, he’s going to be accepted into the Australian Ballet School, leave his fancy private high school, and live his life as a star of the stage—at least that’s the plan until he falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his foot in a way he can never recover from.

With his dancing dreams dead on their feet, Luca loses his performing arts scholarship and transfers to the local public school, leaving behind all his ballet friends and his whole future on stage.

The only bright side is that he strikes up unlikely friendships with the nicest (and nerdiest) girl at his new school, Amina, and the gorgeous, popular, and (reportedly) straight school captain, Jordan Tanaka-Jones.

As Luca’s bond with Jordan grows stronger, he starts to wonder: who is he without ballet? And is he setting himself up for another heartbreak?

Anything But Fine on Goodreads

My Review

If you know me at all, you know that as a former dancer myself, I can’t resist a book about ballet. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a dancer as the main character who was also a boy, so this is a first for me.

I was nervous going into the book because I figured the injury and grief part of the story would hit me really hard, and it definitely did. I cried through so many pages of this book. So many of Luca’s thoughts and feelings about ballet resonated with me. It brought up some stuff for me that I don’t think was resolved, either. So I definitely had a very personal experience with this book.

In addition to that, I loved the story. The relationships are messy and complex, which made them seem very real. Sometimes relationships like that leave me frustrated because of toxic behaviors that don’t get addressed within the scope of the story, but I feel like ANYTHING BUT FINE really hit a great balance with those issues. Even if the offending character never accounted for or apologized for their behavior, other characters condemned it. Luca also did a lot of growing and processing himself, so I felt like even where there wasn’t a neat resolution, I could see him at least processing things and learning and growing.

Lots of moments in this book surprised me. There’s one moment with Luca in the ballet studio where he describes what it’s like to be there and how he’s feeling, and I didn’t expect anything about that whole scene, but it made so much sense. I think I cried the most in that scene, too. Ha.

I laughed a lot reading this book, too. Luca’s awkward insights and silly comments added a lot of fun to the story. Can I just say the description of a ballerina trying to do normal people party dancing looking like a baby giraffe learning to walk is so one hundred percent right on. I have never felt so seen.

Now that I’m thinking about which other ballet books I can compare this one to, I’m realizing that most of the other dance books I’ve read are much more angsty and dark than this one is. I love that about ANYTHING BUT FINE, too.

I think readers who enjoyed KATE IN WAITING by Becky Albertalli would enjoy this book.

Anything But Fine on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 16 up

Representation
Luca is gay. Another character has relationships with girls and then a boy. One character is Indonesian and a Muslim. One character’s mom is Japanese.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Two boys kissing. One scene shows brief sexual touching.

Spiritual Content
Amina is a Muslim and wears a hijab. She describes celebrations and holidays like Ramadan and Eid. Jordan talks about celebrating a Japanese holiday, Bon, with his family.

Violent Content – Trigger warning for homophobic and Islamophobic slurs.
Two boys get into a fistfight. Boys say homophobic slurs to Luca multiple times in multiple scenes. Two characters say Islamophobic and xenophobic insults to Amina.

Drug Content
Teen characters drink alcohol in multiple scenes.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of ANYTHING BUT FINE in exchange for my honest review.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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