Contemporary YA Reviews #4 – Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan & Red at Night by Katie McGarry

December 18, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

Contemporary YA Reviews #4 – Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan & Red at Night by Katie McGarryFlirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan, Katie McGarry
Series: The Ladybirds #1
Published by Bloomsbury Australia on July 3, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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Bea Hogg is shy but fiery inside. When national dance competition Starwars comes to her school looking for talent, she wants to sign up. It's just a shame her best friend agreed to enter with school super-cow Pearl Harris. Bea will fight back! But when school hottie, Ollie Matthews, who also happens to be Pearl’s boyfriend, decides to enter the competition with Bea, she will have more than a fight on her hands.

This warm, nuanced, hilarious story about friendship, fortitude . . . and dancing is impossible not to fall in love with. Jenny’s voice is fresh and convincing, and she handles both darker and lighter elements of the story with equal panache.

I can’t help but feel I’m in the wrong age group for Flirty Dancing. It’s incredibly light and fluffy, and with the main character Bea being only 14, I’d take a guess that it’s aimed towards the younger YA spectrum (of which I am nowhere near).

It took me a few goes of picking up this book, because of the fluffy popcorn-style writing. Within the first few lines, Bea’s younger toddler sister Emma would do typical kid things like play with dolls, yell “PRESENT NOW” and say stuff like “Love you, frog-nose!”. I needed to be in the right mood to pick it up.

Although Flirty Dancing was completely and utter fluff, I couldn’t help but warm to Bea, the shy (around others) and curvy girl who learns to shine through the dance competition. Unlike other YA books that like to tell us young teenagers act like fully grown adults with decades of life experience behind their belt, sometimes that is just not the case. It was refreshing to see Bea actually acting her age and that includes swooning over her crush, mucking around with her best friend Kat and reminiscing over cruel nicknames and everything.

The romance was incredibly cute, like the rest of the book, and it was lovely seeing Ollie and Bea grow together over a dancing competition. At first, Bea is a character who is bullied by the most popular girl in school, but she slowly learns to be more confident and empowered as she finds something she loves in dancing.

The book is incredibly short with barely enough character development. Scenes it would be building up to will be covered in a few sentences, and before you know it, everything will be over.


While Flirty Dancing is incredibly short, light and fluffy, it manages to fit in a romance, some great family scenes and a great message of empowerment for Bea. This definitely isn’t a book aimed at everyone though, but for younger teenagers and even those in primary school, it definitely serves as a great message.

Rating: 3 out of 5

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

red at nightRed at Night by Katie McGarry
Published by Harlequin on April 1, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Source: Free eBook
Purchase: Amazon 

In Red at Night, Stella and Jonah are total opposites. She’s the girl with purple hair from the wrong part of town. He’s a high school senior who hangs with the cool crowd. Until a car accident leaves him haunted by guilt, and Jonah starts spending time at Stella’s favorite refuge…the local cemetery.

Stella knows she should keep her distance—after all, she spent her girlhood being bullied by Jonah’s friends. Once he’s sorted out his tangled emotions, Jonah won’t have time for her anymore. Too bad she’s already fallen for him….

After reading and thinking Pushing the Limits was kind of stereotypical in a way, with two damaged characters finding love together, I thought I’d give Red at Night a try on the bus home from work. People really rave about Katie McGarry’s books and I am still discovering why.

Red at Night was written incredibly beautifully, and I was impressed with how Stella and Jonah could meet, develop a friendship and then fall in love in over 82 pages without that feeling of insta love. While things did progress rather quickly due to this being a short novella, Katie McGarry proves that creating a build up to the actual relationship without resorting to insta-love isn’t an impossible task.

I am beginning to think her books aren’t for me though, because yet again two damaged characters have found a kinship in one another and they fall in love. There seems to be a lot of drama and pent up emotions with the characters, due to Jonah witnessing someone die and Stella being bullied by him and his friend. While there’s a certain realism and beauty in the writing, I don’t really like the message behind the relationship. As with Pushing the Limits, I felt like love was promoted over friendship and strength in oneself, and it certainly happens again here as Jonah throws away his friendship with Cooper over Stella. Even though Cooper is portrayed as the rotten Player, you just don’t do that to your friends over someone you just met.

Perhaps it’s realistic though, as humans rely on each other to lift themselves up with their partners and support networks being there for them. I kind of wish this was portrayed through family and friendship as well as love though, especially new relationships. From what I’ve read, these characters tend to be stereotypically on the wrong side of the tracks, and seem to not have anyone else except for each other.


Red at Night is a beautiful novella that I enjoyed in its short length. In just a few pages, Katie McGarry manages to convey a depth of emotion and feeling between two troubled characters who find solace in each other. While I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful writing, the concept of these damaged characters being together above all else wasn’t really my thing. It’s a free novella with a lot of substance though, so I think everyone could pick them up to see if you enjoy Katie McGarry’s stories.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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29 responses to “Contemporary YA Reviews #4 – Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan & Red at Night by Katie McGarry

  1. Flirty Dancing isn't my type of book at all,as I am not a huge fan of fluffy stories,but still it sounds so cute.I'll keep it in mind as a rec for anyone who'd want to read a book like this.

    I am kinda tired of Katie McGarry now.She's a really great writer,with an equally great personality and she creates beautifully damaged characters and heartwarming love stories,but still at one point all her books start to sound the same.I was completely blown away by Pushing the Limits and it will always be one of my favourite books ever,but after that,when she started to do the same with all her books,I really started to lose interest in them.

    P.S- New follower by the way.

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  2. Eugenia

    I haven't read anything by Katie McGarry *yet*, but I have heard great things about Pushing the Limits so I definitely want to check that one out! Nice to see that you liked Flirty Dancing too – it's definitely light and fluffy, but like you said it's a good quick read with a positive message that younger readers could relate to. Fantastic reviews as always Jeann 🙂
    My recent post Review: Shiver the Whole Night Through by Darragh McManus

    • Pushing the Limits was a good read, but I found it was stereotypical. Red at Night is actually free so I recommend trying it out to get a taste of the author's writing. Thank you Genie!

  3. I really enjoyed Flirty Dancing, even though it was waaaay younger than I expected as well. But sometimes I just need a fluffy read to put me in a good mood and that book did just that. It was adorable and the characters actually acted 14 which was great!

    Red At Night is the only Katie McGarry I've read and I must agree…while she writes well I'm just not a fan of the contemporary tropes. I've heard millions of praises for her full length novels but meh, you know. Like, seen it a billion times before…

    • I know, it took me so long to be able to pick it up! But it was a lovely fluffy read hehe. It's not often when YA characters actually act their age.

      I did read your review for Red At Night and even though it was the only one you read, I guess it's similar to her full length books with the whole idea you know?

  4. Great mini-reviews. I've contemplated Flirty Dancing but admit to being put off by the cover and I feel it would feel too young for me too. I'm not in a big hurry to get to it. I have not had the best luck with Katie McGarry because her first three books all seemed the exact same to me, so I am nervous about trying more of her books.

    • Thanks Charnell, it's the type of read that you pick up when you're in the mood I think. That's the reason I abandoned Katie McGarry as well.

  5. When I first read Pushing the Limits, I adored it, but now, I feel like if I had to read it again, I wouldn't like it. Especially since it seems like all of McGarry's books are about two broken characters finding love. McGarry writes things beautifully but at the same time, I feel like her books are just not for me anymore which is one of the reasons why I haven't read anything else by her. :/

    I actually feel like Flirty Dancing would be the perfect book for me under the right conditions. It sounds like the good kind of fluff that would give me a boost on a bad day so I definitely want to read it when I can get my hands on a copy! 😀

    Lovely minis, Jeann!!! <3
    My recent post ARC Review: Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler

    • Oh I know, I stopped after Pushing the Limits because it just seemed like such a stereotypical story. It kind of reminds me of the Ten Tiny Breath series, but that one ended up getting better as it went along.

      It is definitely a fluffy read Rashika 🙂

  6. JEANN! I've been going around the blogosphere telling people this but I've missed you! Your blog! Your reviews! You have no idea!

    I think I have Red at Night on my Kindle but have not read it yet. Haven't read anything from the author either, although I have heard good things. Somewhat angsty, but the good kind from what I've read on reviews so far. And I think I'm definitely too old for Flirty Dancing lol. I can see my 14 year old cousin potentially enjoying this one though so I now have a book to recommend. Awesome reviews Jeann, as always! <3
    My recent post Musings: When real life ruins your blogging life…

    • I miss you so much too Amir, so glad we are FB friends now <3 Red at Night was a good, quick read for a contemporary romance, but yeah it was the same as her others. Flirty Dancing would be perfect for younger readers though 🙂

  7. I usually like fluffy reads but I can understand that sometimes they can go too far. I really like reading younger books even though I'm out of my age range. Some of them I feel way too old for but shouldn't everyone be able to read and love the book? I don't know may be that's just me. Bea sounds like a sweetheart <3

    Ugh. I do not like Cooper. Love is wonderful but it's not everything if you shove everyone else out.
    My recent post Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

    • Yeah, you really have to be in the mood for complete and utter fluff lol. But it's not a bad thing. I totally agree Adriana, like a lot of MG reads we can still enjoy, even if we can't relate.

  8. Oh no. Sorry that you didn't have more luck with both of these Jeann, I can certainly see where you're coming from though. I loved Flirty Dancing, it was simplistic, quick and incredibly fun. Wholeheartedly agree about the intended age group though, but sometimes I need something light and fluffy after heavy dystopians especially and this was right up my ally.

    I'm a big fan of Katie McGarry as well. It's really no different from NA, except with younger characters and vague sex if any. Which is the problem I have with most NA actually. You're spot on though, one character always seems to be from the wrong side of the tracks, down and out who meets the other who is often wealthy, but also holds a secret. I'd love to see her try a sweet and uncomplicated romance as she's a great author. Lovely reviews Jeann, hopefully you enjoy your next read a little more <3
    My recent post The Bookish Best Of… Books That Surprised Us in 2014

    • I know, a lot of people loved Flirty Dancing but it was definitely a bit too much fluff for me.

      Katie McGarry is like the NA for YA audiences I think, but yeah I would love to see her branch out a bit more. I've reading Pushing the Limits and wondered what all the raving was about, but I've heard that many of her books are the same. Thanks Kelly!

  9. Flirty Dancing is not for me then! I find myself avoiding books written with a YA sticker but aimed at the younger end of the spectrum, you know? Does that make sense? It's just not what I'm looking for and I don't think I'd ever have the patience for this one, unfortunately! But thank you for the review, Jeann! And McGarry? I agree with you. She's not for me. Everyone raves on. But you know what? I feel like she's found her niche and she's not taking a step outside her comfort zone…Eh…
    My recent post Do You Feel Compelled To Read Seasonally?

    • I know, it took me so long to read it but I just got frustrated with seeing it and wanted to get it out of the way lol. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who feels that way about McGarry, especially seeing how everyone raves so much.

  10. Faye M.

    I kinda get what you mean. It would be weird to just dismiss a freindship with someone you've had for years for someone else you supposedly love. I mean, if you love someone, they shouldn't let you choose "me or your friends?" because that's just inhuman 🙁 For me, anyway! I've read Pushing the Limits and while I liked it, it was too angsty for me. I tried her succeeding books in the series and they were all angsty for me, too, so like you, I'm not sure Mcgarry is someone I'd love to read agian EVEN if her books are beautifully written. There is just so much brokenness that I can take >_<
    My recent post ARC Review: Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler

    • I know, I just think it's silly that people could just do that on a whim you know? Yeah, people have raved about McGarry's books but I honestly expected more, and I feel like most of her books are going to be like that.