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Review by Suze
Magnolia has always enjoyed living in Summerland, but the inhabitants of the town aren't friendly any longer because of something her mother has done. Magnolia and her sister Rose were left behind by their mother and the siblings have to deal with the hate for her actions on a daily basis. She only has one good friend left, George. Magnolia is a skilled dancer and George encourages her to audition for Live to Dance, a nationwide television show. Magnolia wants to win, so the people of Summerland will appreciate her again, to show them that her family can also do something good. Is that the right reason to go?
George and Magnolia spend a lot of time together and they've always been there for each other. However, at Live to Dance they are competitors. Will they both get through the auditions and what will happen afterwards? Will their friendship be strong enough to survive the competitive atmosphere or will it suffer? Who will win Live to Dance, does Magnolia have a shot to clear her name or will she have to live with her mother's infamy forever?
Spin the Sky is an emotional story about dance, paying for someone else's mistakes, friendship and dreams for the future. Magnolia is a skilled dancer. She's passionate and gracious and I loved the way Jill MacKenzie writes about her movements. Magnolia has her flaws as well, she's headstrong, doesn't know how to read people and thinks she's less loved than she actually is. It made me sad that she couldn't see the good in her life because of all the bad things that keep happening to her and I kept hoping she'd find some much deserved happiness. Because of the fact that Magnolia has easily identifiable and sometimes opposing personality traits she's an incredibly interesting main character and I really enjoyed watching her grow and find some wisdom.
Jill MacKenzie's writing has a nice and steady flow. She writes about deep emotions in an honest and understandable way. Strong feelings and dancing go together very well and I loved the way she combines the two. Magnolia's story is fascinating from beginning to end. She's a fighter, but doesn't clearly see what's happening around her most of the time, which made me want to give her a shake every now and then. I love it when I feel so strongly about a main character. Jill MacKenzie combines Magnolia's personal problems with a competitive environment and dancers who all want to win, but slowly inevitably start to like each other. The dynamics keep shifting in a fantastic way, which for me was the best thing about Spin the Sky. I loved this terrific moving story filled with dedication, drive, drama and spirit.
If you love YA books about friendship, talent and overcoming problems you will definitely like Spin the Sky.
About Jill MacKenzie
Jill Mackenzie spent a good part of her youth reading books that she wasn’t supposed to while wandering beaches in Hawaii, Australia, and Oregon. Though Jill danced for most of her life, the most important thing she learned from dancing was how good it feels to dance herself clean on a regular basis. Currently, Jill is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing with a focus on Children’s Literature from the University of British Columbia. Jill lives in Florida with her non-dancing husband, two beach-loving daughters, and two cats who (Jill swears) dance whenever the music is on.
1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’d love to! Let’s see…I’m originally from Vancouver, Canada which is probably one of the prettiest cities in the entire world (I know, I may be biased here.) I’ve lived in Florida for thirteen years, and it’s been a really great experience, actually. Yes, a lot of nutty things do happen in Florida, but the thing is Florida is also filled with the most genuine, kindest, warmest people I think I’ve ever encountered, so I’m grateful to call this sweet stretch of coastline my home now. I’ve been married for eleven years to a South African dude named Gus and we have two gorgeous girls who are half-me, half-him in all the best and worst ways. We’re all pretty huge ocean and marine life advocates and explorers and spend a great deal of our time snorkeling and studying sea life. I’m also in the final months of my MFA in Creative Writing with a focus in Children’s Literature, which I’m obtaining from the University of British Columbia (UBC.) I’ve just finished writing the first draft of my thesis now so between wifehood, motherhood, and beachhood, I’m feeling pretty busy these days!
2. You wrote your first story when you were 7, Go With It. Can you tell us what your story was about?
I think I was around eight or nine when I starting typing out that story and I got pretty far (for an eight/nine-year-old) actually! I had like nearly one hundred pages completed of a first draft when my dad accidentally deleted it, which was a real bummer.
But the thing is, I totally remember the story…and I remember that it was a bit of a rip off of Jean Craighead Georges’ My Side of the Mountain, which was one of my favorite childhood reads, too. At the time, I was completely obsessed with the idea of running away and living as “one with nature.” So, my book was about how this girl, after feeling completely sick of watching her parents argue and fight on a daily basis, takes the canoe out from behind her shed and paddles to a deserted island (which was tropical, I think, even though I’m from the Pacific Northwest) and sort of lives there all alone, off the grid and in solitude, until she meets the natives who, of course, occupied the island first. Then, chaos ensues.
Yep, I’m sure you’re thinking Go With It sort of combines a lot of familiar books out there. But hey! I was eight! What can I say?
3. You've traveled the world. What do you miss the most about those days?
Even my friends and family members would tell you I’ve always had a bad case of Wanderlust—one that just can’t be squashed. Even though I’m now married and with a family, that traveling bug hasn’t subsided yet. What do I miss most? I suppose I’d say I miss the freedom to pick up and just GO when I get restless, which happens to me still pretty often. People used to think I was running from things—demons, my past, my future, my obligations—all sorts of things, really. But I’d always say I was running to. Running to a place that was better than the place I was in, of course.
4. If you could go back to any place you've visited before, where would you go and why?
Japan. No contest. I’m completely infatuated with Japanese art and animation and culture (and so is my eldest daughter, thank goodness.) I was only twenty-four when I left Japan and I’m dying to go see it again with my family in tow and my older, wiser set of eyes.
5. What makes your heart beat faster?
Oh, so many things. Definitely, when I let myself dream of the roads I have yet to travel, my heart beats faster. When I see my kids trying to live out their own dreams, my heart beats faster. When my body finally gives in and allows me to be present in the moment instead of always “the next thing,” my heart beats faster.
When I feel eaten up by the dark thoughts in my mind and I have to do something completely consuming to block them out, my heart beats faster. When I feel love and loved—which I feel every day, just not all day every day—my heart beats faster.
6. Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Butt in chair. Butt in chair. Butt in chair. There was never any better advice for me than that.
7. Where did your inspiration for Spin The Sky come from?
My inspiration for SPIN THE SKY came from a lot of things, actually. Initially, the dance competition portion of the story was inspired by one of my favorite TV shows of all times, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. But Magnolia and Rose’s stories…that came from this little town I visited and loved often as a younger teen. The characters themselves are fictional, but that town (though it’s not called Summerland in real life) is as colorful and breathing as the Summerland in my book. I just kept asking myself, “what if a girl from that kind of town needed to go on that kind of public competition to try to get the thing she thought she always wanted but instead got the thing she never even knew she needed?” That’s where I started. That’s how my book baby, SPIN THE SKY was born.
8. If your book was made into a movie, who would play the lead characters and why?
It’s funny, if you would have asked me this when the book debuted in November, I would have said totally different characters than I’m going to here. At the moment, I’m completely obsessed with the Netflix rendition of Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why, I’d choose Miles Heizer to play George and I’d probably want Alisha Boe to play Magnolia. As for Rose…ah, she’s always been the toughest for me to cast mentally, so I’m going to go with Vanessa Marano (from Switched at Birth) on that one!
9. Do you have a favorite quote?
Sure do. Phillip Roth once said, “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress” and I think about that all the time. And when I do, the words “well, mine sure is!” usually float through my mind right afterwards.
10. What can we expect from you in the future?
Good things, I hope! I do have a couple little surprises in the pipeline here, but since I’m a very superstitious person, I can’t divulge what they are yet. But soon! I promise!
Thanks so much WITH LOVE FOR BOOKS. Xoxo
Two very lucky readers of With Love for Books will receive a signed hardcover copy of Spin the Sky. A third lucky winner will receive a dance related swag package.
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