Pointe, Claw


Product Details

$18.99  $17.66
Carolrhoda Lab (R)
Publish Date
5.8 X 8.4 X 1.2 inches | 1.05 pounds

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About the Author

Evolutionary biologist-turned-author Amber J. Keyser has a MS in zoology and a PhD in genetics. She writes both fiction and non-fiction for tweens and teens.

Her young adult novels include Pointe, Claw (Carolrhoda Lab, 2017), an explosive story about two girls claiming the territory of their own bodies, and The Way Back from Broken (Carolrhoda Lab, 2015), a heart-wrenching novel of loss and survival (and a finalist for the Oregon Book Award). She is the co-author with Kiersi Burkhart of the middle grade series Quartz Creek Ranch (Darby Creek, 2017).

Her nonfiction titles include The V-Word (Beyond Words/SimonTeen, 2016), an anthology of personal essays by women about first-time sexual experiences (Rainbow List, Amelia Bloomer list, New York Public Library Best Book for Teens and Chicago Public Library Best Nonfiction for Teens) and Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes (Twenty-First Century Books, 2015), among numerous other titles.

Her forthcoming books include Tying the Knot: A World History of Marriage (Twenty-First Century Books, 2018) and Underneath It All: The History of Women's Underwear (Twenty-First Century Books, 2018). More information at www.amberjkeyser.com. Connect with Amber on Twitter @amberjkeyser.


"Childhood friends Dawn and Jessie were inseparable until Dawn's family abruptly moved. Almost nine years later, Jessie is a dancer in Portland with hopes of being selected for the Ballet des Arts professional company. Dawn, meanwhile, is extremely intelligent but plagued by mysterious blackouts, from which she often awakens far from home, covered in dirt and blood, with no memory of what transpired. Between fruitless visits to specialists, the 17-year-old conducts scientific experiments on herself to try and understand what is happening to her. When Jessie learns her old friend lives nearby, the girls reconnect. As Dawn's episodes become more frequent, Jessie risks her own future by performing in an experimental ballet that forces her to tap into raw, unconstrained emotions. By embracing their animalistic side, both girls undergo liberating transformations that allow them to shed the restrictive expectations of society. Keyser draws upon her own background in dance and biology to create authentic protagonists, whose complicated family lives add further dimension to the narrative. It is a book of contrast and counterpoint, where scientific methodology accompanies nature's unpredictability, and the beauty of ballet exists as a result of grueling rehearsals. Lines blur as the story develops, save for the knife-sharp ferocity of two young women locked in an empowering duet that declares, 'I am bigger than the skin that holds me.'"--starred, Booklist


"Dawn and Jessie were childhood best friends until they were traumatically separated at age nine after being caught experimenting sexually. Now seventeen, the girls reconnect just as they begin to experience parallel dissociative episodes. Dawn observes a black bear, illegally kept captive in the woods near her home, for a college-level animal behavior class, then uses the same methods to track her own fugue states--in which she displays increasingly animalistic behavior and is drawn, again and again, to the bear's enclosure. Classical ballet dancer Jessie, cast in a visceral experimental choreography, embraces the 'bestial, carnal, and brutal' power of her body as it learns to move in this unfamiliar way. Assured, immediate prose--particularly in Dawn's highly sensory, nearly non-verbal sections--keeps readers disoriented. Are Dawn's fugue states a product of zoonosis (a disease transmitted from animal to human), or is Dawn, as she herself believes, 'evolving'? In their individual experiences of dissociation, each girl finds freedom from self-consciousness and others' expectations; in each other, they find emotional and physical comfort and a profound sense of belonging. But while Jessie can relate to the bear's strength and animal grace, Dawn identifies with its captivity, ultimately leading them to another wrenching parting. Keyser insightfully explores the myriad ways young women are caged and preyed upon in our society; her protagonists first subvert and then shatter these roles. This raw, intense novel, reminiscent of those by Sonya Hartnett and Stephanie Kuehn, will leave readers unsettled long after the final page is turned."--The Horn Book Magazine


"Two teenage girls fight for their dreams and their sanity in this intense novel about the pressures society places on women to be perfect. Dawn, a 17-year-old white girl, copes with mysterious fugue states while enrolled in a prestigious online school program that guarantees her a spot in next year's Stanford freshman class; her former best friend Jessie, also white, dances in an elite Portland, Oregon, ballet school from which only two students will be selected to join the company. Unraveling the mystery behind the girls' broken friendship is part of the novel's driving force. Keyser uses animal imagery in both protagonists' alternating narratives to focus attention on the ways that society simultaneously exalts and denigrates women's bodies. The girls' hypervisibility and physical vulnerability is omnipresent, from the street-level windows through which male passers-by lasciviously watch the ballerinas perform to the impersonal manner in which doctors discuss Dawn's body in an effort to diagnose her. The narrative is appropriately dark, but the intensity of the physical imagery that juxtaposes human desire for control and animal primitiveness occasionally feels forced rather than the organic product of teenage thought and situations. The short, clipped sentence structure occasionally makes the girls sound too similar despite their differing personalities. A novel that despite its flaws viscerally evokes struggles of modern teenagers in a brutally authentic manner."--Kirkus Reviews



If you're like me, you've been feeling angry a lot lately. And I do mean a lot.
I suspect this anger is something I carry with my always - but usually it's buried pretty deep. But with so many headlines lately about men in power being accused finally of their wrongdoings - and so many Dude Bros being grossly defensive and doubtful - that anger isn't buried at all. It's raging.
And while I usually read to escape the world - give me something fluffy or fantasy most any day - sometimes, you want a book that channels your anger and helps you define it and better understand it.
These are the books that have done that for me this year. Then keep reading for some recommendations from these authors, plus a chance to share YOUR recommendations.
We're all in this together.

Pointe, Claw by Amber J. Keyser "


"Jessie Vale studies ballet at a prestigious preprofessional program at the Ballet des Arts in Portland, Ore., and the 17-year-old has the blisters and bloody feet to show for it. Vadim Ivanov, the company's principal male dancer, announces that he's putting together his own piece, and Jessie has been chosen to be a part of it. Jessie initially chafes at the animalistic, avant-garde piece but soon begins to thrill to the adult Vadim's attention and touch. Meanwhile, Jessie's childhood friend Dawn struggles with increasingly severe blackouts and the strange pull of a captive bear. Jessie and Dawn's separation at age nine was traumatic, and their reunion, initiated by Dawn's mother, ushers in a metamorphosis for both young women. A former dancer, Keyser (The Way Back from Broken) deftly explores the bonds of love and friendship, and the grueling world of ballet. It's easy to picture Jessie exploding in a riot of frenzied grace, and Dawn's war with her own body and mind is heart wrenching. Alternating between Dawn and Jessie's perspectives, Keyser's writing shimmers with raw emotion and empathy, and her finale, much like in dance, is poetic, bittersweet, and life affirming."--starred, Publishers Weekly


"[A brilliant] story of pain and wonder between two girls straddling the edge of body and mind."--Brie Spangler, author of Beast

--Other Print