Was conflicted but enjoyed it

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I received a physical ARC of this at Yallfest 2019 in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Sparrow is not an easy book to read, it has depictions of physical and emotional abuse. I mainly wanted this book because of the cover and because it has a ballerina MC. Sparrow has everything going right for her. When she is almost run over by a fellow classmate, he is so kind to her after the fact, they end up agreeing to go on a date. As the two start to date, her boyfriend becomes increasingly more controlling, demanding and even gets physically violent with her. Sparrow doesn't know how to placate him or how to save herself from an increasingly dangerous relationship.

The first half of this book was kind of weird. There are a ton of time jumps in the narrative and I found myself wondering if I'd missed something. The parts where Sparrow is in the abusive relationship were so hard to read. There are so many signs that things were getting worse, but Sparrow would constantly justify it with "but he loves me". Y'all just because someone loves you doesn't mean they won't hurt you. And love never justifies any kind of abuse, Never. I really wanted to pull Sparrow in and protect her.

This book is also told in dual POVs between Sparrow and her best friend/dance partner, Lucas. It was kind of weird how it was split between them--the first transition to Lucas's POV was very jarring. But I really liked seeing Lucas's POV.

The second half of the book deals with the aftermath of a violent attack which forces Sparrow to confront her trauma from her relationship with her boyfriend and childhood trauma from her mother. I really loved her therapist and the positive therapy rep. I loved seeing Sparrow start to come back to herself and find her voice so she could begin to process and heal. I loved seeing her begin that journey with herself, and her aunt and father. I loved seeing Sparrow's friends and teachers rally around her. I loved that the second half had basically zero emphasis on romance.

Overall, the first half was a bit messy and rough to read, but the second half made it worth it.