Bright Burning Stars
By: A.K. Small
There are some things to me that just scream drama. Anything involving the ballet is one of those things. I will likely read it. Watch it. Enjoy it. Which is really weird perhaps because I can count the number of ballets I’ve been too on less than one hand.
My thanks to the publisher for the advanced copy of Bright Burning Stars (which comes out tomorrow May 21st) and allowing me to be part of the blog tour!
Kate and Marine have trained since childhood at the Paris Opera Ballet School where they formed an intense bond after respective family tragedies. Their friendship seems unshakeable until their final year when only one girl can be selected for a place in the Opera’s company. The physically demanding competition takes an emotional toll, and their support for each other starts to crumble. Marine’s eating disorder begins to control her life as she consumes less and dances more, and Kate discovers the depths of depression and the highs of first love as she falls for the school heartthrob—who also happens to be Marine’s dance partner.
As rankings tighten and each day is one step closer to the final selection, neither girl is sure just how far she’ll go to win. With nuance and empathy, the intense emotions of teenage years are amplified in Small’s debut as the girls struggle with grief, mental health issues, and relationships, all set against the glamorous backdrop of Paris.
A.K. Smalls is a former ballerina herself so she there was a great sense of authenticity to this book. Describing the training, the work, just the world really felt like it put you there. One of my favorite parts was the enforced and painful ice baths for the dancers feet.
I also enjoyed the pervading sense of doom of one person being chosen and the others cut that hangs over all their heads. Each girl finds the physical reminders of the people who didn’t make the cut in a kind of creepy scene in one instance.
I must admit it took me a while to warm to Kate and even then there were really other reasons why I started to feel bad for her. She’s just one of those people were if a mistake can be made she’s going to do it. The school’s demi-God smiles at her and literally its all sunshine and he’s in love with me we’re going to dance together forever and she does it more than once. People literally tell her what they are and want and she’s like nope, this will be perfect. I will be great. You will love me only. You know the story.
There are all kinds of trigger warnings for this one: eating disorders, drug use, sex, unplanned pregnancy, abortion, underage drinking, etc. I saw a discussion about how the issues are handled in this book mainly no real consequences but I was fine with it. Some people never learn their lessons, some relationships stay toxic, some adults are going to enable.
Basically life is a mess and some people are too. If that’s going to bother you- you may want to take it into consideration. It didn’t bother me. It felt real.
Recommend: Yes. Especially if you have a love of the drama of all things ballet.