Welcome back to Reading, Reading, Reading!
From the ages of 4 until 14, I used to dance very frequently at a local dance studio. One of my favourite things in the entire world (to this very day!) is dancing, and I have been working at a dance day-camp over the past two summers! When I first heard about BRIGHT BURNING STARS, a book featuring two best friends who meet at a Ballet Academy in Paris and take us through their lives in their last year at the academy, I couldn’t resist the urge to read it. Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for selecting me to participate in the Blog Tour!
As always, this review is spoiler free!
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. (Synopsis provided by Algonquin Young Readers.)
This book was so different than what I expected. While the initial synopsis seems eery, this book actually turned out to be very dark. It delved into a lot of deep topics, which in hindsight, should have been expected from reading the previews.
One of the most interesting things about this story was the two main characters, Marine and Kate, two best friends that formed a close bond throughout their early days at the Paris Opera Ballet School. While they seemed similar in the beginning, they developed into two very different young women. The timing of the chaos in their lives parallels, however they deal with their issues very differently. It was almost like they were written by two different authors!
Throughout the novel, one of my favourite features was the frequent incorporation of common french phrases and words. I haven’t been in a french class in quite a while, so it was fun for me to try and remember what these phrases meant and how they related to the events that the two characters were in. But if you don’t speak or know any French, don’t fret! There are english definitions provided for you after most of the phrases/words.
As I wrote previously, this book was much darker than I assumed it would be. There are a lot of triggering themes in this novel, including an eating disorder, mental illness, emotionally abusive friendships and relationships, discussions about suicide, abortion, and more. While I don’t want to spoil anything for you, I will say that if this book is a realistic fictional way of describing things that go on in real life ballet academies, I am so glad that I never went into one. Not only are the ballerinas constantly battling with each other to be on top of the rankings, they are also dealing with internal and social problems that occur outside of dance. It is scary to think that these things might happen regularly.
Besides the darker themes, there is a lot of cliche teenage drama. SO much drama. Including relationships, jealousy, and appearance. Personally, I could have done without a lot of it, but I understand why so much of it was left in the book.
I would have loved to have read more about their lives inside dance studios, and more about their daily schedules, routines, and course-loads, as they are not discussed majorly at all within this story. I would have also enjoyed to see more diverse characters in the novel, as I assumed that all of them were white and heterosexual.
The writing in this novel was another thing that I enjoyed a lot. I found the pacing quite irregular and inconsistent, which brought a long many unexpected twists. However, the writing style may not be for everyone.
Overall, I found this book very captivating and interesting, and I rated it 3.5/5 stars.
Now it’s time for a little Q&A!
Q: How did you write BRIGHT BURNING STARS? All at once or did you outline the story?
A: I wrote it all at once but multiple times! I’m trying to learn how to outline. Man, is it hard. My brain goes to the creative before the analytical.
Q: What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters? Which of your characters do you most identify with, and why?
A: I think that the most surprising aspect of character building is that it took me years to understand and relate to Kate. I had to spend a long time with her before she finally clicked on the page.I identify with Marine because M and I both believe that any artistic success comes not from talent but from sweat and grit.
Q: What gave you the idea for BRIGHT BURNING STARS?
A: I wrote a short story titled The Art of Jealousy and then I knew I wanted to write a larger piece.
Q: Do you have a favourite scene, quote, or moment from BRIGHT BURNING STARS?
A: I love the scene where Marine dances to Biggie Smalls and there is a Luc scene I adore but I don’t want to give it away.
Q: If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?
A: I would tell her never to forget about the magic of process and to always trust her instincts.
Q: What is on your current TBR pile?
A: The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo, The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robbin Brown, Wilder Girls by Rory Power, How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox, Heroine by Mindy McGinnis. I’m a sucker for books. I LOVE to read.
Q: Do you write to music? If so, what artist were you listening to while writing BRIGHT BURNING STARS?
A: I usually don’t, but as I was trying to figure Kate out I listened to Unsteady by X Ambassadors and I put on classical piano pieces, literal ballet music, while I worked on studio scenes for atmosphere and rhythm purposes.
Thank you for reading my review of BRIGHT BURNING STARS by A.K. Small! Thanks again to Algonquin Young Readers for including me in your blog tour! BRIGHT BURNING STARS officially hits shelves on May 21, and I recommend that you pick up a copy if you enjoy books focusing on dance and the dark struggles of competition and pressure.
Good Night Book Owls!