Title: Bright Burning Stars
Author: A.K. Small
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
Source: Digital ARC via publisher
Trigger Warnings: Self harm, Eating disorders, Child loss, Abortion
I was first drawn to this book because of the gorgeous cover. It is the epitome of hauntingly beautiful. Secondly, I took dance lessons as a young girl. Ballet, jazz, point, tap, all of it. And while I was never super serious about it, I still had the dreams of maybe in another life (if I didn’t live in a tiny town in Midwest USA) I could have been a professional ballet dancer. So, I’m always drawn to ballet stories.
Bright Burning Stars is about best friends and roommates Marine & Kate. They attend a prestigious ballet boarding school in France. Everything about the school is incredibly competitive and intense. The students of each year are ranked weekly based on their performance and this causes a lot of anxiety and turmoil within the school. In their personal lives, both Marine and Kate are dealing with issues as well. Marine had a twin brother who died a few years before the story begins and she mourns his loss daily. Kate is from the US and feels like an outsider while also dealing with feelings of abandonment because her mother left her and her father alone when she was only five years old.
As the school year progresses, things only become more competitive because someone will be offered a position in the ballet corps. Marine and Kate’s friendship is tested as the rankings change and the girls find themselves in competition in a way they never have before. And of course, there is a boy who complicates things further.
I read this book very quickly because the story feels very intense. You can feel the desire of both main characters to win the Prize and how important it is to both of them for very different reasons. It explores friendships and first loves, grief and what lengths people are willing to go in order to fulfill their dreams.
Thank you so much to Algonquin Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review this book!
“I wondered if I could choke from something as benign as cake, if someone would notice if I disappeared, and that’s when the feeling of nothing, the hollowness, had first clutched me, only to return later, again and again and again.”
-A.K. Small, Bright Burning Stars
*Please note, this quote is from an ARC copy, so it may change in the final copy.
Synopsis: 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.
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.
Connect with me:
Please note: All links marked with (*) are affiliate links. Meaning, if you click and make a purchase I will get a small percentage of the purchase price from the retailer. Purchases like these help support my blog!