Hey everyone! Today’s post is a very exciting one because I’m going to be hosting a blog tour stop for the lovely YA novel, The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk! Before we get into the tour, here is a bit about the author’s debut novel…
Title: The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publishing Date: May 11, 2021
Content Warning: protagonist is dealing with a lot of anger and some depression, various experiences of racism
Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg–and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it. After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected–namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive cast mate she just might be falling for. But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she had grown to accept in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet–something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else?
Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice.
Find out more about The Other Side of Perfect with these links!
Here is the tour schedule link! If you have time, do check out the other amazing tour stops as well!
Without further ado, here is the interview!
1. Hi there Mariko! I’d just like to say how amazing it is to have you here with us today! Before we start, do you mind telling us some random facts about yourself?
Mariko: Hello and thanks so much for having me! Some random facts about me are: I love tea and tacos, I’ve lived in Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Colorado, when I’m at home I exclusively wear pajamas, and my favorite flowers are hydrangeas!
2. Congrats on your debut! I’m so incredibly happy for you! If I may ask, what inspired the making of The Other Side of Perfect?
Mariko: It was inspired by a couple of different things. First, right after college, I broke my leg while dancing ballet. Second, I’ve always been interested in how people grapple with the negative aspects of the things they love. For instance, I love ballet, but I know it has its share of harmful aspects—like its lack of diversity and its reliance on racial stereotypes in many classical pieces. So I started wondering, if ballet perpetuates these negative things, does that mean I shouldn’t love it? And if I do still love and support it, what does that mean about me?
When I decided to try writing a YA novel, I imagined what would happen if a 16-year-old half-Japanese girl who dreamed of dancing professionally had a career-ending injury and had to deal with losing something she loved with all her heart and with wondering if she ever should have loved it in the first place. Her story became The Other Side of Perfect.
Saniya: Thank you for sharing such a thought provoking response Ms. Turk!
3. The Other Side of Perfect tells the story of a young girl of color as she navigates racism, ballet, and love. The diversity is amazing! What was your experience writing the novel?
Mariko: This book is so special to me because it’s the first book I ever finished! So in a lot of ways, my experience writing it felt so new. I pantsed the first draft. I knew the general idea and some of the characters, but I figured out the themes and the plot as I went along, and it went pretty quickly. I finished in a few months. But then I spent about two years revising. I actually loved the long revision process because it gave me a chance to make the themes richer and more complex, and get to know the characters on a deeper level.
Saniya: I’m glad you loved the long revision process!
4. If you could give your past writer self one piece of advice, what would you say?
Mariko: To just write and not worry about if it’s “perfect” or not. My tendency to edit as I wrote really slowed me down and stopped me from finishing so many projects because I’d get so caught up in individual sentences and paragraphs that I’d lose steam. The Other Side of Perfect is the first book I ever finished, and it’s because I told myself I had to keep moving. I knew I’d have lots of changes to make. Sometimes I realized what those changes should be when I finished a chapter. But I didn’t go back to change them until I had a full draft.
Saniya: I loved what you said about how you just need to keep moving. It’s so easy to get caught up in little things, when we should really just be moving forward instead of holding ourselves back. Well said!
5. Racism is something that many people of color experience, and it really hurts my heart to see kids experiencing discrimination. Why do you think it’s important to portray authentic and diverse characters in the media?
Mariko: I think it’s so important for all young people to be able to see themselves in the stories they read and watch. And not just in one book or movie here and there, but in many. Young people deserve multiple stories that they relate to and that speak to them and their experiences in various ways. So in other words, diverse characters shouldn’t only star in stories about racism and discrimination, but also in stories about love and friendship and family and school and everything else.
Saniya: I couldn’t agree more.
6. Lastly, what do you hope readers will take away from The Other Side of Perfect? Thank you so much for your time Ms. Turk!
Mariko: I hope one message readers take away is that there’s a way out of isolation and unhappiness. And that finding the way out might be tough, messy, and take longer than you want it to, but that it can also be funny, exciting, and full of unexpectedly spectacular possibilities. Thank you for these wonderful questions!
Saniya: This is such a beautiful message! Thank you once again for answering my questions. It was truly a delight to have you. 🙂
About The Author
Mariko Turk grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in creative writing. She received her PhD in English from the University of Florida, with a concentration in children’s literature. Currently, she works as a Writing Center consultant at the University of Colorado Boulder. She lives in Colorado with her husband and baby daughter, where she enjoys tea, walks, and stories of all kinds.
Thank you so much for reading this blog tour stop post, I hope you enjoyed it. Ms. Turk’s debut novel is lovely, and I can’t wait for you to read it! Have a fabulous day!