Author Interview: Turning by Joy L. Smith
Turning follows a former aspiring ballerina who must confront the tragic event that ended her dreams—and landed her in a wheelchair. We asked Joy to share a little about Genie and the journey to Turning’s launch into the world. Check out our interview below and pick up Turning, out now!
Turningby Joy L. Smith
Published by: Denene Millner Books/Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
on March 1, 2022
In this raw, searingly honest debut young adult novel, a former aspiring ballerina must confront her past in order to move forward from a devastating fall that leaves her without the use of her legs.
Genie used to fouetté across the stage. Now the only thing she’s turning are the wheels to her wheelchair. Genie was the star pupil at her exclusive New York dance school, with a bright future and endless possibilities before her. Now that the future she’s spent years building toward has been snatched away, she can’t stand to be reminded of it—even if it means isolating herself from her best friends and her mother. The only wish this Genie has is to be left alone.
But then she meets Kyle, who also has a “used to be.” Kyle used to tumble and flip on a gymnastics mat, but a traumatic brain injury has sent him to the same physical therapist that Genie sees. With Kyle’s support, along with her best friend’s insistence that Genie’s time at the barre isn’t over yet, Genie starts to see a new path—one where she doesn’t have to be alone and she finally has the strength to heal from the past.
But healing also means confronting. Confronting the booze her mother, a recovering alcoholic, has been hiding under the kitchen sink; the ex-boyfriend who was there the night of the fall and won’t leave her alone; and Genie’s biggest, most terrifying secret: the fact that the accident may not have been so accidental after all.
Interview with Joy L. Smith
Talk to us about Genie. What 5 things would she keep in her backpack?
Genie is very practical, so all the things in her bag she would likely need and use multiple times a day. So the five things would be her Vaseline, house keys, money for incidentals and pleasure, extra hair ties and her sunglasses. She’s a city girl so her life is in her bag.
What was research like while writing Turning? What most surprised you in your process?
Because Genie is so new to her paraplegia, I did a lot of research on transferring maneuvers. There are so many different ways to transfer and it all depends on the level of injury. I also did a lot of Vaganova technique research, the style in which Genie trained. The surprising thing about that is the technique prides itself on creating choreographers and teachers when they don’t think a person would be the best professional dancer. I thought it was funny because I built Genie’s pride around not just being a great dancer but a choreographer and natural teaching abilities.
Turning is your debut. How is this story uniquely you? What do you hope people take away from Genie’s story?
What makes Turning uniquely me is that I am such a fan of ballet. And not just in the sense of I wish I was a ballerina and oh the costumes and the tutus. I do appreciate those things as well, but like Genie I obsess over the technical parts of how every little step creates something bigger. But it’s like Genie mentions sometimes you have to move away from the barre and take to the floor. I want readers to know that healing is scary at times, but once you’re willing to let go of the metaphorical barre you’d be surprised how you can balance.