Wednesday, May 22, 2019

World at War: Ten Cents A Dance

Ten Cents A Dance. Christine Fletcher. 2008. Bloomsbury. 356 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: We heard the music even before we got to Union Hall.

Premise/plot: The year is 1941, the place Chicago. Ruby Jacinski hates her job--bottling pig feet. Though just sixteen she is the family's sole source of income. (Her mother can no longer work at the packinghouse, and she's in no condition physically to find a job elsewhere.) What does Ruby love? She loves to DANCE. So when someone--a cute, dashing older boy--mentions that she could get a job as a taxi dancer and potentially make $50 a week...well, she's intrigued.

What does a taxi dancer do? She dances or socializes with the customers. A ticket costs ten cents. It's a ticket a dance/song. Five cents is for the dance hall (Starlight in this case). Five cents is hers to keep. Any tip is hers to keep. The customer is nearly, always right. She's to make herself agreeable--to a certain degree. If she goes too far at the dance hall, she's in danger of losing her job. A customer can clock a girl out early with enough money and take her someplace else--another club, a restaurant, etc. Ruby learns that this is even better than dancing.

She has to look her best to appeal to customers. This costs money, of course, for dresses, stockings, shoes, jewelry, accessories, makeup, perfume. But even with these added costs, she is now able to pay the back rent on their place, pay off their debts with the shops, and keep food--even meat--on the table. But she learns there is a secret cost to pay, one that she never considered: the secrets and lies.

Ruby cannot tell her mother the truth about where she works and how she gets the money. She invents a job--telephone operator--a salary--$18 a week--and coworkers. At first the lies come relatively easy to her, but there comes a point in time where it is much too much to juggle.

And then there's that cute, dashing older boy, the one who told her about the job to begin with. His name is Paulie. And he's got a well-earned bad reputation. Some might even call him a mad dog. He's got plans of his own for Ruby, and though adult readers may see where this 'relationship' is going...Ruby's just naive enough to think differently.

How will the war change her future?

My thoughts: This is my third time to read Ten Cents a Dance. I first read it in 2008, and then again in 2014. I really do think this would make an excellent movie. I think the characterization is excellent. It's a compelling read.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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