Summary: Ian, a dancer and twelfth grader with a penchant for human rights, is unabashedly himself at all times. Supported by his mother, grandparents and best friend Tilly, Ian has always had the freedom to let everything hang out, even the fact that he likes other guys. But Jess, the school’s football star, is not that lucky. With a homophobic army dad, gay is the last possible thing he can be. When Jess backs Ian up against a locker and kisses him, it’s a shock for everyone. So begins a tormented relationship that seems doomed to failure as Ian is out and Jess isn’t. This conflict shapes their story, and the consequences for Jess if anyone finds out about them keep getting worse. Unfortunately, it is Ian who will have to face them.
Number of Pages: 172
Age Range: 15-17
Review: It’s hard to know where to begin.
I love the theme of taking back language. Words like faggot and sayings like “That’s so gay” are meant to hurt, but Sobat makes an impressive point about claiming language to take the pain of it away. Ian freely uses stereotypes of people who are gay, as well as slurs he knows are circulating to either describe himself or to point out where things aren’t true. And by doing so he claims their power and protects himself. At first it’s a startling read because of his word choices, but once I realised how empowered he was by words, I got it.
Ian loves and loses, big time, but he is not a victim. He remains resolute in his determination to be who he is, and to pursue what he loves. Sobat shows us that being irrepressible does not mean being a stone. You’re allowed to cry and hurt and both of those things still don’t make you a victim. It’s an attitude. Jess is a victim, Ian is not. In that respect I feel sorry for Jess because he doesn’t realise it can be a choice. He had choices if he was willing to explore them.
It sounds corny, but love gives us wings. Chance to Dance for You is, in some ways, a tragic story, but also a cautionary/comparison tale. Ian is loved and supported on all fronts except at school. Jess is supported at school for being a football star, but is clearly only loved at home if he obeys the rules. And what happens? Ian is free to be himself, and Jess is not. And even when Ian does get beaten down for being himself, the love surrounding him enables him to get back up again. Terrible things have happened to him but I know he will be okay.
Jess’ story fills me with overwhelming sadness because the demon he was truly fighting was himself. Yes, he had his father’s disapproval weighing heavily on him, but it got internalized into such an intense self-hatred that I wonder if he didn’t step in when Ian needed him because he thought it was deserved. Did he imagine himself in Ian’s position? Jess never had the courage to put love before perceived reputation, but in a way it is hard to fault him.
Constant music references add so much to an already excellent story. I loved the ones that triggers songs to play in my head, and the ones I was exactly sure about just encouraged me to look them up. I asked Sobat on Twitter if there’s a master playlist in existence, but I haven’t heard back yet. Hoping there is because now I have a plethora of songs free-floating in my head. I love the emphasis of music being such a powerful and motivating factor of Ian’s life.
Sobat is right, with a good librarian, libraries are neutral, safe zones. I can personally attest to finding them as source of comfort and a place to find friends who are also ‘misfits.’
Quite simply, it’s a book that touches my heart because Sobat highlights the need to expect more from people. That despite sexual orientation, gender, ability, socio-economic status, etc, there are certain standards of how we should treat ourselves and others, as well as expectations we should have. I connected with Ian in his recovery because although Sobat uses sparse sentences, she hits the nail right on the head by capturing feelings of being left behind and having a lot of time to think.
I’m sure there is more I could write but suffice it to say I absolutely love this book, and Ian is a compelling character I carry with me as inspiration for how to live my life. Highly recommended.
“So where do misfit kinds like Robert and me go? Well, there’s the library. It’s a neutral zone. And the librarian, Mrs. Nesbitt, gets it. She gets that kids like me need a safe zone. So I hang out there once or twice a week. I see Robert in there, too.” – Ian from Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat, page 35
“Anyone who thinks dance is for sissies is an idiot. Dance is incredibly demanding. Athletic. I can kick higher than most black-belts. But I am almost always sore. Some muscle is always hurting or pulled or strained. My feet are punished and already look older than seventeen.
It’s the price dancers pay. Dancing makes me feel alive. Anything is possible. I go into a zone where all there is are breath and body. I am intensely aware of everything and nothing all at once. I invent routines. Characters. Assume the great roles of dance: great princes, downtrodden lovers, proud warriors. I feel possessed and often lose track of time. Sometimes I’ll be late for Whitleigh classes. English is right after lunch. But I don’t care. Because of dance, I understand Hamlet in a way no other kid does.
I have been transported to Denmark in a way they will never be.” – Ian from Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat, pages 38-39
“That’s another great heterosexual myth. That all gay guys want a piece of some straight guy’s ass.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Most gay guys are pretty picky. (Well, this one is.)
Most straight guys don’t even have great asses.
Neither do gay guys want to wind up on the end of some straight guy’s fist. Or flat on the floor. Or dead and hanging bloodied on a fence in a field.
So I keep my eyes mostly to myself. I’ve mastered the surreptitious glance. The nonchalant nod. The sneaky squint.
Once in a while there’s a little eye candy.
But most often, I wouldn’t stop to buy at the confectionary.” – Ian from Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat, page 40
“‘Look,’ Tilly’s soft voice again. ‘You’re a great person, Ian. You care about all the right stuff. I love you no matter what. Here’s what my moshum says: we learn all kinds of things, find solutions to problems even, by being quiet. By just listening. To nature. To each other. To the world around us.’ She touched my arm, since I wasn’t looking at her. ‘Let’s try it for a few minutes.'” – Tilly addressing Ian being called a know-it-all from Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat, page 64
I peeked through my fingers at my mother.
‘You’re not a freak of nature. No matter what anyone may say about or write about or spit at you. You are a wonderful young man. An incredibly talented, bright, sometimes too mouthy but still loveable young man. Who happens to be gay.'” – Ian’s mother’s response to him realising he’s gay from Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat, page 68
“Some people say that guys don’t and shouldn’t cry. That it’s not masculine. Manly. I don’t buy that. Maybe if more boys and men cried, the world would be a healthier, saner place. I don’t know, but I think so. My mom always says that she feels a great weight off her shoulders after the occasional good sob-fest. I get that tears are kind of an important release. Why should it be different for guys? Whether straight or gay guys? It’s that femme-y idea again. Guys who cry are like guys who dance. Prancing nancies. But I’m not effeminate, despite the male dancer stereotype. And I do cry and I did cry much of that night.” – Ian from Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat, pages 133-134
“Being beaten up makes you think. Gives you time while you heal. Too much time. Or just enough. Depends on your point of view.” – Ian from Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat, page 165
“Some days are pretty boring. It’s hard to watch your friends go off to their lives when your own is on hold.” – Ian from Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat, page 169
“I am going to dance to save my life. My heart.
I am going to dance because, like Mr. Monaghan told me and Alex assures me, there is more than one way to be a man in this world. More than one way to participate. To make change. For the better. Or at least I’ll dance, trying.” – Ian from Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidone Sobat, page 172