The Melting Season

by Celeste Conway

for ages 12 and up

Giselle is a cultured ballet student, the daughter of the famous ballerina Marina Parke-Vanova and the late dance historian Grigori Vanov. On her first-ever trip to "Westchest-ah", as her mother's deranged boyfriend Blitz calls it, she meets the most beautiful boy she's ever seen. Will introduces Giselle to the world beyond Manhattan, and for the first time, makes her feel comfortable outside her perfectly protected apartment on Central Park West. But Giselle has some issues to overcome--and some memories about her father that keep rising to the surface. With Will's help, Giselle must come to terms with her family's glorious--and not so glorious--past and focus on the future.

Selected for the New York Public Library
Best Books for the Teen Age 2007 List

(Delacorte Press,
A Division of Random House)
ISBN 978-0-73339-9  (0-385-7339-9).
Ages 12 and up.
The Melting Season

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REVIEWS & PRAISE

“Sixteen-year-old Giselle lives in a household where little has changed in the 10 years since the death of her father, a legendary dancer/choreographer. She attends a New York City school for students gifted in the arts, studies ballet under the watchful eye of her mother, an eminent former ballerina, and snatches what little free time she has to spend with her best friend, Magda. After meeting Will, though, everything begins to change. Smart, ironic, constrained and vulnerable, Giselle tells of the spring when her life suddenly shifts, allowing her to see the past differently and move forward in the direction of her choosing. . . this novel will capture readers with its vivid imagery, emotional subtlety, and fine dialogue. Often droll, the writing features apt turns of phrase and laugh-out-loud moments, as well as a convincing back-story and subtle portrayals of interactions between characters. Readers may find themselves rereading this first novel for the sheer pleasure of spending more time with these idiosyncratic characters. ”

– Booklist

“The book itself is thoroughly romantic, creating a vivid milieu of lush artistic eccentricity and faded grandeur for Giselle’s current and past home life that’s just the sort of existence one imagines young ballerinas leading. Conway effectively operates on two planes, the manifest reality of Giselle’s voice with its contemporary snarkiness and legitimate teen frustration . . . and a corps de ballet of metaphorical explorations of Giselle’s tentative moves toward maturation.”

– The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Frozen by her childhood memories of a father who died of cancer when she was 6, Giselle, a talented ballet student and daughter of famous dancers, falls for a green-eyed boy in a suburban garden shop. His sympathetic understanding helps her make changes in her own life, unlock the memories of her father's difficult last years, and move on toward adulthood. Woven into this gentle story of first love are plenty of details about a dancer's days, plus an interesting glimpse into a very sophisticated New York world. Giselle lives in an apartment overlooking Central Park big enough to have rooms she won't enter because of their connection to her father. She attends a private high school for professional young people, interestingly contrasted with the large suburban school she visits at Will's invitation. She is compulsively neat about her possessions and has never spent a night away from home. Appropriately for a story told by a dancer, there is a great emphasis on appearances; but the reader, like Giselle, comes to understand that both appearances and memories can hide a deeper reality. High school readers with an interest in ballet will be attracted by the cover, but will find much more to think about within.”

– Best Books: Booklist Book Review Stars Teen Books, 2006; Bank Street College of Education www.childrenslit.com

“A teen-girl story that is captivatingly real. Celeste Conway's The Melting Season, a full, rich novel about a 16-year-old ballet student, is a rare treat. . . Giselle is a trustworthy narrator in the way a much older and more self-aware person might be, and that makes sense; after all, this is a kid who has never had a Saturday off from the hard physical work of dancing, who grew up in the strange Old World atmosphere of ballet, and who lost her dad when she was only 6. She's the daughter of world-famous ballerina Marina Parke-Vanova. . . Her father was a Russian-born superstar dancer and choreographer, 25 years her mother's senior. Giselle has his looks, not her mother's--sad, dark eyes rather than a golden glow--and she has canonized him, latched onto her idea of him as perfect and won't let go. . .

Giselle's life is exotic, but thanks to Conway's confident prose, the girl really inhabits it --lives in New York like a New Yorker, talks about ballet like a dancer. Giselle is matter-of-fact in her explanation of the Russian fairy tale that inspired Snegurochka, the ballet she's rehearsing; the really loving descriptions are reserved for more everyday things, like the three little Chinese girls across the way who wave to Giselle as they jump on their bed. The book is full of wonderful details that make the New York of Conway's imagination come to life.

And subtly, cleverly, without ever letting us hear the gears whirring, she is telling us another story. Shyly, Giselle lets us in on her secret. She can't sleep over at her friends' houses, ever, because the idea of being out of her comfort zone makes her feel like she could fly into a million pieces. With regard to that comfort zone--her room and the dolls and keepsakes in it--she's a little, um, OCD. But then she meets Will, a down-to-earth kid from the suburbs with family problems of his own. Through his kindness, their sweet relationship blooms slowly and nudges her toward a revelation about her family that was a long time in coming. Don't be surprised if you're sorry to leave Giselle's world by the book's end--not because it's so perfect, but because it's so real.”

– Katie Haegele- The Philadelphia Inquirer

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