Good Reading for Kids chats with Chenée Marrapodi about One Wrong Turn, dance and what’s she going to write next.
ABOUT THE BOOK
If I wanted the lead role, Valentina had to go.
A contemporary Ballet Shoes set in an elite dance academy, this compelling coming-of-age novel is all about overcoming pressure, standing up for yourself and the joy of ballet! The perfect gift for all young dancers.
Amelia is a ballerina on the rise – she’s talented, dedicated and set to star in the lead role of the annual production. But when Valentina arrives from Italy and joins the ballet academy, the competition gets fierce.
Can Amelia outshine Valentina and keep her place in the spotlight?
Age Guide 9+
MEET CHENEE MARRAPODI
One Wrong Turn is your first novel – where do you get your love of writing from and when did you begin your writing journey?
When I was a kid, I always had my nose stuck in a book, to the point where my mum used to have to force me to take a break from reading! I had a really overactive imagination and it wasn’t unusual for the characters to come to life in my mind. I would dream up elaborate ways to weave myself into the stories, just so I could be part of the action.
Towards the end of primary school, I decided to put pen to paper. I spent an entire school holidays writing my own novel. I still have the book printed out in my desk drawer. It’s called The Rebel Riders and is about four girls who solve mysteries on horseback.
What sparked the idea for One Wrong Turn?
Dance is something I’m really passionate about, so when I sat down to write a novel, it wasn’t that much of a surprise that the first thing that came to mind was a ballet academy.
I started dancing when I was about five years old and I haven’t really stopped since. Dance is funny like that – once you start you can never fully give it up!
There’s a natural element of competition within every dance school and a lot of vibrant personalities. Mix those together, raise the stakes and you’ve got the elements of a great story.
I also have a strong Italian heritage that I absolutely adore, so I was keen to weave that into the story too.
What can you tell us about Amelia and Valentina?
Amelia and Valentina are both 14 and have dreams of becoming professional ballerinas. They seem like polar opposites, but in reality, they both want the same thing. They are desperately trying to prove themselves.
From the outset, Amelia is quite a prickly character. She’s hard-working and fiercely determined to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become a professional ballerina. Her ambition and dedication can easily be misinterpreted as arrogance and she doesn’t really see the value of friendship.
In contrast, Valentina is quite warm, but a little shy. She’s just moved to Australia from a tiny town in Southern Italy and is trying to master English and navigate her place in a new country. Valentina and her family were a lot of fun to write. They were inspired by my own Italian family and some of my friends, so I felt like they really came to life on the page.
I’ve spent a lot of time living with Amelia and Valentina, and I love them both for very different reasons. I’ve recently been working on the sequel to One Wrong Turn. It’s called Breaking Pointe and will be out mid next year. For me, it’s been really exciting to be back at the ballet academy. I know these characters so well and it feels like I’m catching up with old friends. This time round, it’s been really special to watch the friendship between Amelia and Valentina grow.
Your story is set in the world of ballet – how did your own background in dance influence your novel and its characters?
I really wanted to write a ballet story that went beyond the beauty of ballet. Part of the skill of being a dancer is making a performance looks effortless and I think as a result, a lot of people underestimate the work and discipline required of a dancer, starting from a really young age.
Young dancers absolutely blow me away, not just with their talent, but also their dedication and passion. They train and rehearse for hours each week, pushing their bodies and their minds to the limits. I really wanted my novel to celebrate that and provide a window for those who are less familiar with the dance world.
Sadly, I’m not as talented as my characters, but I do know what it’s like to be mid-way through a ballet exercise and to feel your entire body turn to jelly because you’re exhausted. I wanted my readers to feel that too!
It takes a lot of discipline to become a dancer – what are some of the challenges your characters face in your story?
Like a lot of ballet dancers, my characters are dealing with tough choreography, blisters, dead pointe shoes and of course, some healthy competition.
Valentina also has the added challenge of language. Speaking from experience, it’s quite difficult to dance and speak a foreign language at the same time!
Beyond all of that, Amelia and Valentina are both trying to find their place and battling expectations, pressures and internalised beliefs. These things are holding them back and until they can overcome them, neither will be able to shine on stage.
Describe your book in three words!
Inspiring, heartfelt and fun!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chenée Marrapodi is an Australian writer and podcaster. She has worked in media for many years, currently for Channel Nine News, and formerly as a reporter for Channel Seven’s Today Tonight, as well as online news and radio. Chenée’s love of words is rivalled only by her love of dance. Combining the two, One Wrong Turn is her first novel.