This book totally consumed me – most ballet-based books do, but it was more than just the ballet that captured me in Bright Burning Stars… the toxic friendship felt familiar & the mental health representation made me feel seen as I’ve been struggling myself recently. I am obsessed with this book & it’s one of my favourites of 2019.
I was sent this book by The Fantastic Flying Book Club in return for an honest review.
⚠️ Anorexia (body dysmorphia?), grief, drug use, scenes of a sexual nature, abortion ⚠️
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 realise they have everything to lose, including each other.
I pretty much begged the wonderful people at The Fantastic Flying Book Club to let me be a part of this tour because I just knew it was something I would love… but I came to love it more than I anticipated & by the end I was totally addicted to all the characters & the Paris Opera Ballet School.
Our two main characters are best friends but are very different; when I first started reading I despised Kate, but as I got to know & understand her character I came to really care about her & just wanted to protect her from, mainly, herself. I also found Kate interesting to read about & her chapters always engulfed me. As for Marine, I loved her instantly & from the start I just wanted to hug her, wrap her in a blanket & keep her safe from the brutal world of ballet. Through a lot of the book I was desperate for Kate & Marine to save their friendship, but the more I read, the more I saw it as toxic, for both of them, & when they finally said farewell to one another, I sobbed endlessly.
The world of ballet in books is a little like circus settings for me – it’s a theme that I can’t help but feel attracted to & I find the hard work & dedication of ballerinas (that feels like such a soft word for such a brutal world) impossible to resist. I know that this sport is hard work & that dancers have to be 100% committed, but this school was so, so brutal. I have no idea whether the Paris Opera Ballet School is as harsh & hard to navigate as it’s presented in this book, but nevertheless it was a school that consumed me & left me wanting another book from… but maybe with male protags?
A. K. Small’s writing made this book what it is though – her writing was intoxicating & addictive, & the way she wrote her characters made it impossible for me to not be interested in them. Even the characters I hated were interesting! I’m totally desperate for more of A. K. Small’s work & I have a feeling I’ll love anything she writes. The writing in this story really reminded me Lydia Ruffle’s writing because of how well the mental health representation was – I’ve put in my warning that there is anorexia featured in the book, & possibly body dismorphia, & as these are illnesses I haven’t experienced myself I can’t comment on how well they were written… but the depression that’s featured throughout the whole book was such a comfort to me & helped me cope with how bad my depression has been recently. Whenever I was struggling, I focused on getting back to Kate & Marine – I miss them already.
Bright Burning Stars was an intoxicating story that broke my heart completely. I found both Kate & Marine frustrating at times but in the end I rooted for them both. I felt seen whilst reading this book, but also loved it for reasons outside of the depression rep. I’m about to order a print copy of the book, & I think you should too (or you can grab a digital copy):
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Google Books | iBooks | Kobo
A.K. Small is thrilled for her debut novel, BRIGHT BURNING STARS, to come out May 21, 2019 through publisher Algonquin Young Readers. Her talent for writing and passion for classical ballet fuse together in this novel and earned A.K. Small the honor of an Entertainment Weekly review.
In addition to BRIGHT BURNING STARS, A.K. Small spends time on short stories. Her short story, Anthrocon, 2017 was just nominated for a Pushcart prize by the Bellevue Literary Review. Other stories such as the Flour Baby and The Interior Designer were also nominated or runner-up to prizes.
She also ran a column titled, “A French Girl’s View Du Monde” at Barrelhouse Magazine.
A.K. Small graduated from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2009 with an MFA in fiction. When she’s not reading her favorite authors (Rainbow Rowell, Angie Thomas, Anna Gavalda, Jandy Nelson, Ann Hood, Sue Miller, Anais Nin, Tayari Jones, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Wright, and J.R.R. Tolkien, to name a few!), she’s studying her favorite dancers: Sylvie Guillem, Noella Pontois, Marie-Agnes Gillot, and Aurelie Dupont.
A.K. Small grew up near the Sacré Coeur in Paris and married her Tobagonian soul mate. She has three gorgeous daughters and owns a min-chi named Dallas.
You can find her website here.
Prize: Win (1) of (2) copy of BRIGHT BURNING STARS by A.K. Small
Start Date: May 13th 2019
End Date: May 27th 2019
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