Thursday, May 23, 2019

Blog Tour: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

Bright Burning Stars
A.K. Small
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure.

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other.
REVIEW

Would you die for The Prize?
This was the question Marine, Kate, and all the other First Division dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet School were asking themselves, as they began their final year of training. This was their last opportunity to prove they deserved the top spot, and the company position that came with it. However, only two - one male and one female, would get The Prize.

I have read several books set in the world of elite ballet, and like those, this was intense. Like most of the other books, this one focused on the "dark side" of ballet. There was the physical strain on the dancers' bodies, which they tried to soothe with ice baths, warm water bottles, and lots of pain reliever (and not always the legal kind of pain reliever). Then there was the extreme mental stress, the head games, the sabotage, the body dysmorphia, and insecurities. It was super cutthroat, and Small expertly pulled me into their mess. I felt the hunger pangs, the aches, and that out of control type of spiral right there along with the characters.

But you know how Kate and Marine made it this far? By the power of the friendship they had forged from their very year at the ballet school. Since the age of 12, they had been supporting one another, but during this critical year, cracks started to form in their friendship as Kate began to make a string of poor decisions in order to give herself an edge in winning the prize, and Marine starved herself in oder to attain that perfect ballet body.

I worried for both Marine and Kate, though, probably more for Kate. Marine was lucky to have a few other solid relationships, and Luc was an especially strong ally. Once Kate and Marine were on the outs, Kate was alone, thousands of miles from her home in Virginia, and still nursing the wounds left when the mother, who had abandoned her. I was content with the ending Small wrote for Kate, because it was hopeful, but I loved the ending she gave to Marine. It was a little unexpected and quite wonderful.

One of the reasons I wanted to read this book was because it was about ballet dancers, and Small opened that window into their world quiet wide. I have already mentioned all the physical and mental pain, but she also invited us to "see" them dance. I got a good sense of the euphoria both Marine and Kate experienced, when they performed, and I loved being part of the action. She described the mood, the music, the costumes, and the movement in such a way, that I could fully envision it.

Overall: A compelling look at the world of elite ballet, which deftly took us through the highs and lows one experiences in their pursuit of The Prize.

Read chapter one here!

* ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A.K. Small was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.





Do you enjoy ballet?
Let us know in the comments!

28 comments:

  1. This seems quite an interesting novel. I rather prefer books that focus on the realities of something than those that only focus on the good side. Great review.

    Happy readings! ;)
    Tânia @MyLovelySecret

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't always need the brutal and honest truth in a book, but I appreciated it here, because I think it's to frame how difficult being part of the ballet world is and it shows the physical and mental toll it could take.

      Delete
  2. Definitely sounds interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This reminds me of the movie The Black Swan. It sounds intense. I will have to read it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It didn't go THAT dark, but was an honest portrayal of the ups and downs a ballerina experiences.

      Delete
  4. seen this around. glad you like it
    sherry @ fundinmental

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sounds intense, but very compelling. I definitely want to read this one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seeing behind the curtain is always interesting.

      Delete
  6. I have seen several review highlighting the "dark side" of this read indeed Sam! Compelling yes but certainly not on the rosy side.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely dark, but Marine is a bright point in the book. Her spirit and how she never gave up was something that kept me reading.

      Delete
  7. I don't know if I've ever read a book focusing on ballet dancers, but it sounds incredible!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love books with dancers, and I liked how much ballet Small included in this book. It wasn't just set in the ballet world, she took us into it.

      Delete
  8. Yeah, I can see how this one would be riveting. I've read a couple set in the world of ballet, but they didn't go much into the dark side. I think I'd like to read this one. Great review, Sam!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It always fascinates, how I can sit there and flip pages as a character becomes unwound, but like a train wreck.....

      Delete
  9. Great review! I'm on the blog tour for this book too and loved many of the same things you did. I was very satisfied with the endings for both girls as well, especially Marine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marine's ending was phenomenal. I adored her, and I was glad with how it ended for Kate, but her journey wasn't over. Can't wait to read your review.

      Delete
  10. Sounds like a really interesting read. The ballet world is very intriguing!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Intriguing, amazing, and sometimes, horrifying. It's incredible what these artists go through.

      Delete
  11. I love when an author can make you envision things (like the girl dancing,), and make you feel everything that the characters are going through. This sounds like a dark read, with everything these girls put their bodies through to compete in ballet. I'm glad that the author gave both girls a hopeful ending. Great Review Sam!

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kate's storyline was especially dark, which is why I was happy with the way Small wrote Marine. She brought some light and hope to the story.

      Delete
  12. TBH the cover scared me and reminded me of Black Swan which wasn't a good movie to me. You make this sound really compelling though Sam as I love books about friendship and unexpectedly wonderful endings. ❤️

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it does have the dark tones of Black Swan, but the damage the one dancer does is more to herself, than anyone else.

      Delete
  13. I don't think I have ever read a book about ballet. This sounds fascinating to me. I think I have to get it just because of that. It would be a first for me. Great review Sam!

    Mary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have always loved reading about dancers, but I wish there were more happy ballet books.

      Delete
  14. I used to want to do ballet but I didn't have the patience for it - so I switched to gymnastics and now yoga. I love to watch ballet from time to time though, and I love reading books or watching movies about it. It seems like the dark side of ballet intrigues a lot of people and this one sounds just as intense as the usual. I will look into it because it sounds like one for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand how that level of athleticism and artistry is extremely hard work, but there has to be a good side to it all, right? I are still searching for that fluffy ballet book.

      Delete