I promise this book is not as sketchy as the title makes it sound. My friends thought I was reading a book about super cheap strippers, but it’s not. Give me a chance to explain, guys.
Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher is set in the 1940’s and revolves around a 15-year-old girl that finds the majority of her family’s financial needs placed on her shoulders. The book starts with her working in a super unhealthy, The Jungle-esque factory. But she then finds work as a taxi dance at a local dance club. Again, not as sketchy as it sounds.
Basically, pretty girls would get paid 10 cents to dance with men, so that the men could “improve their dancing”. Keep in mind, this is at the height of popularity for the jive and swing dancing and styles like that. It’s not sketchy! But, over time, the taxi dancers engage in “fishing”. Basically they get their clients to buy them dinner or dresses, and take them to afterhours clubs. It’s all super glamorous.
Throw in a boyfriend determined to be a ruthless gangster, and you basically have the back drop for the whole story.
The thing that I find most interesting about this novel is that it is, loosely, based on the life of the author’s great aunt who was a taxi dancer in the 1940’s after having a falling out with her parents. When Fletcher heard her great aunt’s story, she was inspired to research taxi dancers, and Ten Cents a Dance was the result.
If you’re into historical novels, this is a great book. If you’re into Young Adult fiction, this is a great book. I really enjoyed the entire novel, beginning to end. Fletcher’s story telling is almost flawless and really engages with the time period. It’s well researched and everything that could be lost in translation due to time period is thoroughly explained in a natural way. Most often in historical novels, I find that authors get hung up on emphasizing the time period, going into incredible detail about the history in general, not simply the history as it relates to the character. Fletcher manages to pick out what is important to the story and leave the little historical details up to the research of the reader.
I loved the main character, as well. She is incredibly relatable because she is just a teenage girl. She wants to have fun, she wants a boyfriend, and she wants to hang out with her friends. Her circumstances force her into a tough situation, but after some sticky points in the middle, she comes out on top. It’s a story that could be told in any time period with only slight variations.