A child in a futuristic society transforms from a clumsy child to a graceful teen and potential starship pilot. Theo Waitley is a child on Delgado, a planet full of scholars, where scholarship is everything. She has just received word that her mother wants to move to be closer to the other scholars, so as to further her career, and Theo must accompany her. This means leaving behind Jen Sar, her father, or the man she thinks of as her father—though she is not sure he is her biological one. On Delgado, a child does not learn who her true father is until her coming-of-age.
The move is stressful, but her cat comes along as a stowaway, which helps. Unfortunately, not even her cat can help with Theo's clumsiness. After one too many incidents, those in charge of preserving the “safety of all” threaten to treat her awkwardness with medication, but Theo is able to start taking dance classes instead, to improve her coordination.
Then it is discovered that certain important scholarly records have been altered. To ensure that further scholarship is not affected, Theo's mother and her colleagues must examine the original material—which is located on a different planet. Once again, Theo accompanies her mother. Her dance practice has seemingly done wonders, but it is not just the dancing—Theo's genes, inherited from Jen Sar, who is indeed her father, have given her the gift of graceful movement, which she unfortunately had to grow into. Medication, incidentally, would have been terrible for her—in reducing her clumsiness, it would have altered the grace that it grew into. Now, Theo can dance like a master; along with a pilot-in-training, she beats the dance machine on the ship, and she even engages in a difficult game of bowli ball, a pilot's game. When they arrive at their destination, Theo is placed in a school, while her mother and the others are placed in isolation to examine the records. But there is a saboteur—one of her mother's colleagues has attempted to get Theo placed in a “class” whose members are routinely sedated, and which is reserved for troublemakers. Theo does well enough, however, that she is put in a pilot's class instead. The saboteur has also been attempting to sabotage the research, but that is discovered and amended. When they arrive back on Delgado, Theo finds that the ship's captain has offered to sponsor her so she can attend pilot's school—for pilots need the grace and coordination that she was born with. The book ends as she celebrates her Gigneri ceremony, her coming-of-age.
Best part of story, including ending:
The description of the society of Delgado was quite interesting; for someone who liked school, it was fascinating to see scholarship taken as seriously as it was. Also, I enjoyed the parts where Theo starts impressing others with her dancing skills.
Best scene in story:
I enjoyed the scene where Theo beats the school's dancing machine (after beating the ship's somewhat easier one).
Opinion about the main character:
I like the fact that Theo is meticulous (she researches the medications they want to give her), and smart, but her occasional naivete is cute too.