Two weeks ago Naomi Morgan lost her best friend. It was an accident, there wasn’t anything she could have done. But still Naomi is weighed down by guilt as she continues pursuing a career dancing ballet when she knows that Jessica can never dance with her again.
But even if she isn’t dancing next to her anymore, Naomi still has Jessica at her side. Jessica is quick to remind Naomi that she doesn’t have room for distractions like TV, or friends. She’s always there to tell Naomi that as a Black dancer–the only Black dancer now that Jessica is gone–Naomi has to work harder, be better.
As dancers at her academy gear up for a prestigious competition that will open doors to every conservatory program, Naomi pushes herself harder. And harder.
But when disaster strikes, Naomi is only left with herself and her grief as she recovers and contemplates if she’ll be able to dance again and, more importantly, if she wants to dance again.
Saint has never met anyone like Naomi. Even when she’s hurting, her dancing is beautiful. Watching her–and eventually drawing her–feels like Saint’s one refuge from being the sole carer for both his dying father and his younger brother.
Naomi and Saint don’t inhabit the same worlds but together they might be able to find their way to a better one in Until We Break (2022) by Matthew Dawkins.
Until We Break is Dawkins’ debut novel. The story is narrated in close third person with alternating viewpoints following Naomi and Saint, both of whom are Black.
Until We Break explores themes of passion and grief while Naomi reluctantly acknowledges Jessica’s death and Saint faces his father’s mortality as his health deteriorates from COPD and continued smoking. While Naomi’s grief is a main theme of the story her hallucinatory conversations with Jessica are never unpacked as a potential manifestation of a larger mental health crisis.
Dawkins brings a fine eye for detail to descriptions of Saint’s art creation and, especially, to Naomi’s dance. Common problems in ballet dancers including overstrain and disordered eating are mentioned (the first with Naomi’s sprain that forces her off the dance floor for part of the novel and the latter hinted at with fellow dancer Aspen) but never addressed beyond superficial treatment as Naomi learns how to love both her dancing and herself.
Until We Break is an introspective story of healing and recovery; ideal for readers with an interest in dance or art.
Possible Pairings: Pointe by Brandy Colbert, Bunheads by Sophie Flack, I Wanna Be Where You Are by Christina Forest, You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma