Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small
ARC received from the publisher for an honest review.
Publish Date: May 21, 2019
First of all, thank you to the Publisher for the opportunity to read this book and join in on the blog tour! I am newer to the book community so every instance such as this are so appreciated. And thank you A.K. Small for this wonderful book that you have written! I can’t wait for the rest of the book world to get their hands on a copy and fall in love with these incredibly real characters just as I did.
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.
I think that in every girl’s life at some point we all looked at a ballerina and thought to ourselves that we wanted to be her. I for one took ballet as a child and actually made it all the way to Pointe before I realized that the amount of time and dedication that was required to succeed from then on was going to be more than I was willing to sacrifice for dance. That and I got side tracked with being a teenager and horseback riding. So there ended my ballet career. But I have always wondered what it would be like to make it. To be a ballerina star, flying across the stage, defying gravity. Its hard not to when you see how magical the dancers look and how effortless it all seems. Bright Burning Stars captures the reality of ballet and through these amazingly realistic characters we learn that its much more than magic. There is actually a lot of hard work, dedication, dieting, and essentially an entire lifestyle that goes into becoming these feather like dolls that seem to float across the stage.
The biggest pull I had in reading this was the friendship dynamic between our two main characters, Marine & Kate. Their relationship with each other and their passion for dance was as close to real as it gets. In growing up we all learn that the perfect fantasy that we’ve concocted in our minds eventually hits a wall of reality at some point. And people grow apart and different over time. But even though our circumstances may change, and our lives are different, that doesn’t mean that we have to lose that friendship. People can learn to work around their differences if they know that person is worth the time and effort to keep in their lives. And the bond between Marine and Kate is more than just friends, they have become family over time. And sure family fights, family disagrees, but in the end they are always there for each other, just like these two girls.
Along with struggling to maintain friendships, there were some other big topics that this book covered. Topics that are all too real in the world of ballet and life in general. Some of these trigger warnings would include: thoughts of suicide, eating disorders, body shame, abortion, & depression. I will say that each of these topics was handled with care and respect and each character did take the time to work through each of these issues and none were glorified in any way shape or form. Although there were times when I pretty much despised Kate as a character because it seemed like she was ungrateful for all she had and she kept making one big bad decision after the next. But without her we wouldn’t have had the reality of how this life takes its tolls on those who choose this way of life. Though there was a lot of seriousness surrounding these topics, it wasn’t all consuming. There was plenty to show us the happy side of a ballerina’s life like the friendships and bonds that are formed, the passion of dancing, the feeling of being on stage and performing, romances that kindle between like minded people, and so much more. This book was so full of emotion and passion it was hard not to fall right in with the characters, they all felt so real!
The way this book is written you can tell that the author was in fact herself a dancer. The terminology all the way down to the details of the daily routine these dancers endure was spot on. I could feel the authenticity in each word. Its beautiful to write about something that you are or have been passionate about at some point in your life. This is where the true beauty behind the words shines the most, and trust me, these are some serious Bright Burning Stars. I found it easy to fall into the writing and get swept away in the words. It wasn’t difficult to read at all, flowing from one scene to the next with a small cast of characters to remember, and just the one main location where the story takes place, its very easy to follow and comprehend. I also minored in French in college so the language and dance terms didn’t give me any trouble to understand, but I do think that if you aren’t familiar with either ballet or French, then it could give you some pause with the sheer amount of terminology thrown into this book. Maybe a glossary of terms will be added to the final copy which I think would help readers who aren’t as familiar with these terms understand what they are reading.
My overall thoughts on this book are that its beautifully written, with extreme care to details and realistic touches make the story and characters come to life. You fall in love, feel the rush of dancing, have your heart broken, get angry at decisions made, root for certain people to succeed, form crushes on other characters, and in some ways become a part of the story yourself. Its hard not to when the love for ballet and dance oozes from the pages and right into your heart. There is so much that happens in the short amount of time the book takes to read that when its over, all you can do is sit in silence for a minute taking it all in. I really feel like this book will connect with certain readers who feel this level of passion for their own careers or hobbies. And for those of us who always wanted to be a dancer, we can live vicariously through these characters as they take the journey we chose to pass on so long ago.
If you liked this book:
I’m going to do something a little different with the recommendation this time around and suggest a movie that I think is perfect instead of a book because the whole time I was reading Bright Burning Stars, all I could think about was the movie Center Stage. This movie is like the American version of Bright Burning Stars. While the book takes place in France, Center Stage takes place in New York at the American Ballet Academy. The friendships, struggles, romances and all the rest we fell in love with in Bright Burning Stars is so similar to the movie and the characters in it. I had to find this movie in my old stack of DVDs last night and watch it again just to fall in love with Charlie and those pretty blue eyes all over again!
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.
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Algonquin Young Readers Twitter: @AlgonquinYR