In Shelley hrdlitschka’s 2002 novel, Dancing Naked, a teenager named Kia finds herself pregnant. Through the help of her minister, she decides to carry the baby to term and put her up for adoption. Dancing in the Rain fast-forwards 16 years to tell the story of that baby, Brenna. While Hrdlitschka revisits the setting of Dancing Naked, this is not a typical sequel; reading the first book is not necessary to understand this one.
The novel opens with the funeral service for Brenna’s adoptive mother, who has recently died of breast cancer. Over the year that follows, Brenna learns to cope with the fallout: her younger sister rebels and retreats from friends and family; out of nowhere, a biological relative offers condolences on Facebook and tries to build a relationship; Brenna’s pragmatic best friend doesn’t understand why Brenna is taking so long to grieve; and Ryan, a boy who worked with her mother, has romantic intentions but also seems eager to “fix” Brenna.
This book has lessons it wants to teach you. Its “strong on the outside, strong on the inside” mantra champions the virtues of physical fitness in overcoming grief, and suggests that laziness contributes to depression. A keen self-help tone permeates every plotline. Christianity is never overtly preached, but its values are very present.
Dancing in the Rain is basically an episode of 7th Heaven, wrapped in a thin Unitarian blanket.