Kia is sixteen and pregnant. Her world crumbles as she attempts to come to terms with the life growing inside her and what she must do. Initially convinced that abortion is her only option, Kia comes to understand that for her, the answers are not always black and white. As the pregnancy progresses, Kia discovers who her real friends are and where their loyalties lie. It is through her relationship with the elderly Grace that she learns what it means to take responsibility for one’s life and the joy that can come from trusting oneself. Faced with the most difficult decision of her life, Kia learns that the path to adulthood is not the easily navigable trail she once thought, but a twisting labyrinth where every turn produces a new array of choices, and where the journey is often undertaken alone.
Dancing Naked by Shelley Hrdlitschka is a unique book in it’s ability to be both tremendously heartbreaking while simultaneously being wonderfully heartwarming.
I originally picked up this book thinking that it would be a light read to give myself a change of pace from all of the sad books about illness that I’ve been reading lately. I did not expect this book to be so heart-wrenching and meaningful, but that is really the only way to explain how this book made me feel.
While I have never personally experienced teenage pregnancy, I felt as though I could empathize with Kia’s experiences and connect with her character due to the way in which the author details her emotions and thoughts.
This story does an excellent job of enlightening readers about the ups and downs, the fears, and the moments of joy that are experienced by young mothers. While others have criticized the book for relying heavily on stereotypes, I did not perceive this to be overly negative for the outcome of the book. In fact, I perceived much of the information presented in the book to be factual. For example, Derek, the father of the baby, abandons Kia after finding out that she is pregnant. Statistically speaking, this is not a stereotype; the majority of teenage relationships dissolve during or closely following a teenage pregnancy.
I also loved how this book used the character of Grace as a point of wisdom and guidance for Kia. The book is not just a sob story about a girl who screws up and gets pregnant at the age of sixteen. The story has so many layers and wonderfully demonstrates that there are lessons to be learned from all of life’s experiences, both good and bad. On the surface, Kia’s story might seem to be one of tragedy and loss, but if you look more closely at the messages and learning experiences in the book you might find that the overarching moral of the story is one of hope and personal growth in the face of painful experiences.
To say I “enjoyed” this book would not be the right word. Dancing Naked is not an overly happy story, but it is valuable, important, and engaging. I read this book in the space of two days and I found myself unable to put it down until well into the early hours of the morning.
I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who is a fan of a good book with an important message to share. Just be prepared to feel emotionally raw and shattered by the time you reach the last page.
Dancing Naked is just such a wonderfully heartbreaking story. Definitely a must-read.