Review: SPIN THE SKY by Jill MacKenzie

SPIN THE SKY is a passionate, lyrical novel that weaves love and dance into a visceral narrative.

Jill MacKenzie’s debut novel Spin The Sky follows Magnolia “Mags” Woodson, an 18-year-old dancer struggling to overcome her small town’s intense hatred towards her and her family. When her best friend George insists they try out for a televised dance competition, Magnolia wonders if it could finally be her and her sister’s way into her miserable town’s good graces.

The novel is written from the first person perspective of Magnolia Woodson. Her narrative is complex and very raw, though her voice — often sassy and dark — stays consistent throughout. Her unfiltered perspective seems to be raw, and in that sense she reads as a character with realistic thoughts and fears. We love that there are so many layers to her perspective, though we did not feel an intense attachment for Magnolia; even so, seeing the story through her lens made the plot all the more interesting and personal.

On the other hand, Magnolia’s sister Rose definitely piqued our interest. She appears outwardly gritty and mysterious at the beginning of the novel; we were immediately anxious to learn more, and were happy to do so as the story continued. Rose is a dimensional, complicated character that we wish we spent more time with throughout the read.

And George, an outwardly confident and handsome dancer, has more complexity than he lets on. His relationship with Magnolia is compelling and kept our attention during the entirety of the story. It was especially interesting to meet him through her point of view, as it left us unsure of his motives for a good chunk of the story. Magnolia’s feelings about George felt very dimensional and real.

“My hands reach up to move stars, rearrange space.”

The very first line of Jill MacKenzie’s debut YA novel speaks volumes to her lyrical writing style. She uses metaphors and descriptors with ease, seamlessly dousing the novel with figurative language that we loved exploring. Jill’s versatile writing style was our favorite part of reading Spin The Sky. Specifically, we loved Jill’s descriptions of any dance sequences. All were beautifully written and consistently evoked striking visuals. Her passion and knowledge of dance absolutely shine through those scenes.

spin the sky fullAnother high point for us is the friendship between Magnolia and George and how it progresses throughout the story. Magnolia’s feelings towards George are complex and almost adversarial at times, which felt realistic and relatable. Jill explored many shades on the friendship spectrum that reminded us of the complexity of any relationship, and what it means to be (or not to be) a friend.

While the overall plot of the story is interesting, our protagonist has a very complex backstory that made us want to learn more about the characters of her past. At some points we found ourselves wanting to read more about Magnolia’s past than stay in her present. This made the pace of the story feel a bit slow at times. We flew happily through the more intense moments of the story or the chapters that unveiled even small secrets about Magnolia and her family. For us, the plot came to a lull during some of the details of the present storyline.

Unfortunately we were underwhelmed with how the story wrapped up. Though many parts of the story come together, we were left wondering about some earlier-mentioned details of the characters and Magnolia’s past. It seemed that the story finished up too neatly and lacked the messy realism of her inner-monologue throughout the story. Regardless, it was nice to see some character developments and callbacks to earlier themes in the novel.

Though unsatisfied with the ending, Spin The Sky a beautifully written story filled with complex relationships and riveting depictions of dance. We can’t wait to see what Jill writes next!


Magnolia Woodson wants nothing more than to get her and her sister, Rose, out of the pitifully small, clamming-obsessed, Oregon town that hates them—she just doesn’t know how. Forced to put up with the snide comments and hateful looks the town’s people throw at them, Mags thinks she’s destined to pay for the horrible, awful thing her mom did, and left her to deal with, until the day she dies.

But when a nation-wide, televised dance competition posts tryouts in nearby Portland, Mags’s best friend, George, says they have to go. Not only have the spent the past fourteen years of their lives dancing side-by-side, dreaming of a day just like this, but it could be Magnolia’s chance: Chance to win the grand-prize money and get them out of Summerland, chance to do the thing she loves most with everyone watching, chance to show the town that she’s not—has never been—a “no good Woodson girl,” like her Mother.


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