Summer Reading Project

Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy

The Beatles - Love me Do

Character Analysis

Marina Dukovskaya is the protagonist in this book. She was a passionate dancer at the Bolshoi Ballet Theater in Russia until the disappearance of her mother, the famous Svetlana Dukovskaya. After being forced to move to New York in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, her life changes completely. She went from having the luxurious life most teens don't have, to living in a tiny apartment. Everything in her old life had to be kept a secret to everyone else around; even her name. Being so hopeful that her mother would come back to her caused tensions between her and her father. Back in Moscow, she was a happy teen and had the world on her shoulders, but the move changed the way she dealt with her feelings.


Her life in Moscow was much more golden than it was in New York. Everybody knew who she was because of her mother, a famous dancer at the Bolshoi Ballet. The way she dressed was always with the best fashion. When they fled to New York, they didn't bring their fortune with them. She lived in a ratty apartment, and came with a small bag of clothes from back home.


She had a lot of resentment towards her father. This was because she believed he was doing nothing to bring her mother back. Her behavior towards him, such as calling him a coward, a "nobody", a parasite, etc. came from missing her mother. She took all of her angry built up feelings out on him.


Since she had to keep her whole life a secret, the amount of friends she had was small. The one girl friend she made was Lindsay, and this friendship reminded her of her friends back in Russia. She also became really close with a boy named Ben, and started to open up with him about her old life and let her walls down. He had helped her get back into dancing at the American Ballet Theater, which was the one thing she was so passionate about. As they hung out more and more, they began to develop strong feelings for eachother, but kept it hidden.


Marina was told by her father that she could trust nobody but had to act like she did, and that everyone was a spy. This took a toll on how she treated people. She had to keep her guard up at all times to every new person that came into her life. For example, Marina was given a Russian male ballet partner at the American Ballet Theater. She was told by her father that he was a part of the KGB, the Russian police. It turned out that he had been a spy, but was working for the American Government rather than the Russians. He had good intentions like protecting her. This made her realize that her father wasn't as crazy as he seemed.


Everything changed when Marina learned about the death of her father. She had blamed herself, even though it had nothing to do with her. She felt as if her life was over. The one person she wanted to turn to was Ben, but he was nowhere to be found. When she had found him, they expressed their love for each other and how they never wanna lose each other. Losing her father and mother had made her realize that she didn't want to lose another person that she loved in her life

Development 1 (Theme)

Theme is a literary element that the author uses in this book to advance the plot in this book. A theme in this book is betrayal. Marinas mother, Svetlana Dukovskaya, was a famous dancer for the Bolshoi Ballet in the Soviet Union. Because she knew too much about a past event that the government kept hidden from the public, she "disappeared". The Soviet Union had held her captive in an institution. This symbolizes betrayal because she had represented the Soviet Union all around the world, and they stabbed her in the back by basically kidnapping her. This advances the plot by forcing her husband and daughter to have to move to America.


Another example of betrayal is when Marina goes to try out for Juilliard, a part of the American Ballet. The American Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet were two of the most famous dance studios in the world at this time, which meant there was rivalry. Any Russian who became apart of the American Ballet was known as a traitor to the Soviet Union. Since Marina had become a dancer at Juilliard, she was betraying her home country. This advances the plot by attracting spies towards her family.


Another example of Betrayal is when Vitya, Marinas father, shot his best friend, Dyadya Gosha. They had gotten into an argument in an alley when Dyadya Gosha had told him that his wife had been killed by the KGB, the Russian Secret Police. Vitya had called Dyadya a traitor and shot him. This symbolizes betrayal because this was his best friend for forever and he had the audacity to shoot him. When Ben, Marina's friend, came across this scene, he had thought that her father would kill him as well. As a result, he picked up a gun and shot her father killing him. This is partly betrayal because he had killed his true love's father, but because it was in self-defense, it wasn't his fault.

Development 2 (Setting)

Setting is another literary element that is used throughout the book to advance the plot. A lot of Marinas problems came with the change of setting from Moscow to Brooklyn. This was the time of the Cold War, where the tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States were very high. Because they were of such importance to the Soviet Union, it caused a lot of government involvement when they moved to Brooklyn. This is what caused them to have to keep their life a secret.


There were a lot of visions into the past and the future, which gave you a foreshadow sometimes as to what would happen next. These visions often showed what was happening to her mom back in Russia. The language that was being spoken was Russian and English. When she was with her dad or Dyada Gosha, the conversation was usually spoken in Russian to show the seriousness of the situation. While she was with Ben or Lindsay, her friends, she would use English, which symbolized a youthful and less serious conversation.


Moving from a luxurious apartment in Moscow to a ratty apartment in Brooklyn helped to show the change from fortune to misfortune. The surrounding of the subway with graffiti written all over showed the transition of their lives. This led to the dad looking for a better job throughout the book so they could gain back their fortune that they once had.

Evaluation -Praise

This book was very insightful on many things. It explained the secrecy of the government, the Cold War, the KGB, Ballet and more. It was filled with real-life history from the past which was very intriguing. The author really made you feel as if you were going through the struggles Marina was dealing with through the words she used. She established the setting every time it had changed with a great amount of imagery where you could picture it in your mind. The usage of foreshadow throughout the book left you wanting more, which meant you never wanted to put the book down.


Because of the two different languages being spoken throughout the book, it was sometimes difficult to follow. Paying attention at all times was crucial, otherwise you would miss something or get confused. Although the title made this book seem like it was all about dance, it was more written around it. There could have been more dancing throughout the book like the cover page had portrayed.


Overall, this book was very insightful and I would highly recommend reading this.

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