May 14, 2019

Bright Burning Stars Blog Tour: Review

Bright Burning Stars
Author: A.K. Small
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers


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.


Bright Burning Stars is the compulsively readable story. I was breathless and battling tears up until the very last stunning turns onstage and beyond. A dazzling, heart-wrenching debut.” Nova Ren Suma, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Room Away from the Wolves

The fascinating, competitive ballet world may get the YA novel it deserves with Bright Burning Stars...Pitched as an immersive, propulsive story into the world of ballet, Bright Burning Stars is also notable for the way it tackles sensitive topics such as mental illness and eating disorders.—

“Debut author Small, herself a dancer, brings authenticity (fascinating day-to-day details abound) to what it takes to flourish or wither amid the soaring highs and crushing lows of a competitive dance school while sensitively exploring the girls' many emotional and physical extremes... Addictive, angst-y, and heartfelt.”Kirkus Reviews

Bright Burning Stars is a dark young adult contemporary novel that focuses on two best friends, their time at a prestigious ballet academy in Paris, and what they are willing to do to become the best and win the ultimate prize. I don't have any dance background, so I found the plot of this book to be very interesting for many reasons. I've read other books and I've seen movies about ballet and how intense and cutthroat it can be, especially when something like the Prize - a spot on the corps de ballet - is at stake, but I thought this novel took an even deeper look inside this world and the people who make it their entire lives. There's definitely some heavy topics discussed throughout the book - some may even be considered triggers - and I thought it was fascinating that the author included them. It made the characters all the more realistic because they were fighting inner demons and real world problems just like the rest of us. It made me connect with them and really empathize with their situations.

I loved the two main characters - Marine and Kate. What made the book really stand out for me was the author's use of the dual narrative (alternating between Kate and Marine) and the use of the first person POV. This is by far my favorite writing style because it allows the reader to connect on a deeper level to the narrator(s) and get inside their minds. This was definitely the case with this novel and I thought it made the story all the more intense and real. We get to see what each girl is thinking and feeling throughout the book, their hopes and dreams, their fears and insecurities, and their true feelings about everything around them - from themselves to other people and even ballet itself. I loved that the author chose to write the story in this way and I don't think it would've had the same positive effect if it had been done in another POV. This was a perfect fit and really allowed the reader access to both main characters at once. 

I'm not going to go into the plot because I don't do spoilers and the majority of the book contains big events and revelations about the characters. I'll just say that it was an inside look at the dark side of ballet and also the dark side that people have inside of them. The story had a quick pace, which made it hard to put down. It was well written and most of the aspects of the novel were wonderfully done, which made it a huge surprise when I found out this was the author's debut. It definitely speaks to her talent as a writer and storyteller, and I'll be keeping an eye out for her next release. I'd definitely recommend this book to fans of YA fiction, contemporary fiction, and fans of ballet or other dance related books.
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. | Twitter: @aksmallwords | Instagram:@aksmallwords

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