Fun fact: I have no rhythm at all, and I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.
HOW TO DANCE, Jason B. Dutton's fantastically witty debut, follows Nick Freeman and Hayley Burke. Nick is a pretty big freakin' deal at the Squeaky Lion, his local bar where he's a karaoke legend. Hayley is a ball of energy whose first language is dance. They meet as she and her partner dance across the Squeaky Lion, and an awkward encounter leaves the two utterly disliking each other.
Naturally, a friendship blossoms!
Hayley is new in town, having moved to work at Vivez Dance Studio with her boyfriend, Kevin. She'd been miserable in their previous life, but couldn't put her finger on why. Hayley needed a fresh start, and Kevin needed to get back on stage with Hayley. Nick, on the other hand, is a local crowd favorite who seems to know everyone everywhere he goes. He's beloved all over town, but Nick often feels like that's because he has cerebral palsy and uses a walker. Do people truly care about him, or do they pity him? Do they like Nick, or do they think they get some weird societal brownie points for helping the dude who struggles to walk?
Hayley is having none of that nonsense, and what follows is a hilarious and witty tale about self esteem and the lengths people will go to tear themselves down--and the trust you have to place in others while they help you build yourself back up. It's a lesson in friendship, faith, and love, peppered with SO MANY POP CULTURE REFERENCES! You know I was hooked at an It's a Wonderful Life nod, but seriously, you can tell that Jason B. Dutton is one of us--this book was so funny while also being a deep dive into the human psyche, and how easily we can lie to ourselves about what others feel for us.
I often tell myself (and my friends) that negative thoughts and self-doubt are "your brain lying to you," and so often during this book I wanted to scream that at both Hayley and Nick. I wanted to wrap them each in big hugs and never let go because their brains could be so cruel to them, making them feel small and worthless when that absolutely was not the case. They question themselves, each other, and their loved ones in a way that is so relatable and real, while simultaneously breaking your heart in the process.
The idea of being "inspirational" comes up quite a bit when it comes to Nick. He's told several times, to his face, that he's an inspiration, which he always understands to mean that he is inspirational because he has cerebral palsy and still manages to exist in a world that is set up in a way to make life more difficult for him. (For example, handicapped parking being close to a door but the ramp to get up the sidewalk being down the street like WHY DO DEVELOPERS DO THAT?!)
Will Nick learn that he, himself, and his personality are what's inspirational, not his existence as someone with a disability?
I truly enjoyed this book--I read it in just two sittings! All of the characters are so likable and relatable that I felt like I was sitting in the corner watching my friends' lives unfold before me. I was content to see where their stories led me, until my friends started bullying themselves...then I wanted to throw hands! Jason truly knows what he's doing in crafting a story that will make you feel everything: joy, sadness, anger, frustration, embarrassment. It will make you question your own interactions with people with disabilities, and have you hoping that you've never, even unintentionally, made someone feel less than because of something out of their control. I laughed and cried in nearly equal measure.
Seriously, go read this book!
Love and chocolate milkshakes,
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and have voluntarily written this review with my honest feedback. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop.org affiliate link above, I will receive a small commission and you'll support local indies! If you purchase a copy using my Amazon affiliate link above, I will receive a small commission which I will use to justify my literary addictions and to spoil my dogs (probably).