Review: Last Dance by Hanna Schroy

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Last Dance by Hanna Schroy
Iron Circus Comics (January 2021)
200 pages; $11.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Hanna Schroy is a cartoonist and illustrator living in Austin. She has participated in a multitude of self-published anthologies including Girls! Girls! Girls! curated by Alex Perkins and Thicker Than Blood curated by Mengmeng Liu. She is a long-time dance enthusiast and recent amateur gardener. Her newest endeavor is the middle-grade graphic novel Last Dance.

Last Dance is the story of Miriam, who has trained all her life to be the best dancer possible. She is now the prima ballerina of her company, but when she misses a move in her duet and fractures her ankle, her dancing career seems to be at an end. However, one night, when Miriam is alone in the studio, she discovers a secret room. Inside the room she finds a pair of golden pointe shoes and hears the voice of a spirit, who tells her to put them on. Miriam follows this spirit’s instructions, and suddenly feels stronger, better, and more powerful — but at what cost? Disaster after disaster befall the company, while Miriam continues to excel. Will her thirst for success eventually lead to the death of one of her fellow dancers? Or will she come to terms with her body, her limited abilities, and allow others to succeed?

What propels this story is the characters. Miriam is a well-developed protagonist with a great arc that will appeal to middle-grade readers. Furthermore, the other characters work well, and have their own arcs that are developed in such a short graphic novel. Readers, especially those in the target audience, will be able to identify with the jealousy and in-fighting that happens between the characters, as well as the characters who want to be good, friendly people, but occasionally allow their desires to get in the way of that. 

Schroy has created a very interesting take on the Faustian bargain tale. This is a strong story for middle-grade readers, and one that deals with classic horror tropes, but in a way that’s safe and comfortable for readers of that age. Furthermore, the modern dance setting will appeal to readers who may want to read scary books but dislike the usual horror settings. The horror is there, and present, and Schroy uses very striking colors and graphics to represent the dark spirit that Miriam is fighting against; however, it is very much age-appropriate, and the ending is satisfying and wholesome. Strongly recommended for young readers who want to get into horror, but safely and comfortably. 

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