“A 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 The Walls Around UsWould you die for the Prize? Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained since childhood at the Paris Opera Ballet School, where they’ve forged an inseparable bond through shared stories of family tragedies and a powerful 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 how far they would go for the ultimate prize: to be named the one girl who will join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic will make them shine, too? Would they risk death for it? 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 a stunning, propulsive story about girls at their physical and emotional extremes, the gutting power of first love, and what it means to fight for your dreams.
|Publisher:||Algonquin Young Readers|
|Product dimensions:||9.10(w) x 12.00(h) x 6.90(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
A. K. Small was born in Paris, France. 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 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
BRIGHT BURNING STARS is surprisingly dark and twisty, following two young ballet dancers in their final year at Nanterre in alternating points-of-view. Nanterre trains “rats,” e.g. the children of the ballet who may or may not become a part of the elite ballet company at the Paris Opera. The children are entrenched in the culture and highly competitive environment bred from the result of their years of education where only one girl and one boy from each year are chosen to join the company. As the result of failure is equated to death, and their rankings among their classmates are constantly updated, the students are naturally very competitive with each other. The environment reeks of destruction and corruption. Kate and Marine have been best friends for years, moving up and down around the other in rankings but not yet truly competing with each other. In this final year, with the stakes so high, they must decide how far they will go to win as well as why they love ballet so much that they have sacrificed their childhood and adolescence to it. Each girl loses herself to the school and their own psychological struggles in the course of the plot. Very dark and twisty, this book exposes the bleak underbelly of ballet in an, at times, horrifying way. Kate is sacrificing herself to boys and drugs to find purpose and meaning in her life. She is convinced that if she dances with the boy they call ‘The Demigod,’ Cyrille, that she will be able to make it. In the meantime, she gives her heart and body away very easily. Marine joined ballet because her twin brother who died when they were younger had dreamed of ballet- she is determined to succeed for him. She is ever-aware of the flaws of her body, made even more apparent by the weigh-ins they require of her to ensure she does not gain weight and the nutritionist they have her visit to lose the 1kg she gained over a few months. Their friendship itself has been- or has at least become- destructive with Kate overpowering Marine frequently and resulting in Marine’s further problems. This is not really a book about friendship, even though it follows two girls who are supposed to be friends. The lessons that the book holds are more about the systematic oppression and heavy weight of expectations that can lead to psychological destruction, as they are evident in ballet. Reading of this book should be placed in context by educators/others for younger readers. Books which show such challenges are worth reading for understanding; however, the healing is not as apparent and resources for teens who may face similar challenges are needed. Warnings (which may contain spoilers) for this book would include drug use, smoking/alcohol teen use, suicide and depression, sexual exploitation, anorexia/weight obsession, self-harm, teen pregnancy, and abortion. This is a very dark, but well-written, novel, and it carries some major issues for which resources would have been helpful to show (or to include in an afterward, which may happen upon publication). I would recommend this book for older YA contemporary readers who are looking for a darker read with gravitas. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Content Warning: Overall dark and depressing tone, Depression, Self Harm, Underage Drinking, Smoking, Sex, Forced miscarriage, Self-harm, Anorexia, Drug abuse, Suicide idealization, Death ”If you were only allowed to feel one, which would you pick, pain or numbness?” I didn’t want to play Would You anymore. I shrugged. “Come one. You have to answer,” Kate said. “Numbness,” I replied. “Not me,” Kate said. “I’d pick pain any day.” When I say I typically don’t read contemporary, I should probably stick with that. When I first came across this book, though, I was interested due to the ballet aspect of it. To be honest, it was nice to have a momentary step away from the fantasy realm. However, I wished I would have spent this hiatus with a different choice. While Brightly Burning Stars has a few good points to it, most of it is very negative. As you can see from the content warning listed above, there is a lot of crap poor choices made, backstabbing, and too many other unpleasantries to really appreciate the dancing part of this book. I’m not a ballerina. I took lessons when I was younger, but never went far with the discipline as I lost interest and developed it for other things--one being hip-hop dancing. No matter the type, I still appreciate dance. This aspect was the strongest of the entire book. This author knows her stuff when it comes to ballet and it’s easy to tell she’s intimately involved with it. Reviewing the other parts within the story is when it gets unpleasant. The story is told in an alternating format between two best friends and fellow dancers--Kate and Marine. Both girls attend the Paris Opera Ballet School and are in their final year there. As competition gets stiffer, they begin to do whatever it takes to come out on top--and it gets messy. Boys, drugs, alcohol, and all sorts of destructive behavior takes both girls down paths they don’t exactly desire. As this happens, a chasm appears in their friendship and pulls them apart. ”Marine, notre monde, this world of ours--the stage and studios and barres--is intense and lonely. There is no space for friendships, love, or even an old and perhaps sacred bond between twins. Nothing shadows the art of dance. It’s a union of body, mind, and music. Classical dance is known for being ruthless. Any retired company member would tell you it’s a one-man show.” If anything, this book is a glimpse into the dark lifestyles that people live when they only live for themselves and promoting their own gain. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much to take away from this book. It think it teeters on the edge of dangerous for young readers, as there are some very touchy and serious topics like anorexia, forced miscarriage, and self-harm, and they never come full circle to promote readers to not follow suite. These are topics that shouldn’t be lightly included in a plot to make it thicken. Due to its content, this shouldn’t be a Young Adult book at all. While I liked the dedication to detail of the ballet-aspect of the book, I disliked pretty much everything else. Vulgarity: Moderate Sexual content: Explicit sex scenes resulting in pregnancy and forced miscarriage Violence: Minimal. My Rating: ★1/2
3.5 stars I am going to start this review with a trigger warning. This is needed because of some content in the book. There are abortion, anorexia, and drug use in the book. Also, there are scenes of forced sexual contact for the drugs. If you are triggered in any way by those, I would recommend not to read the book. Bright Burning Stars is a dark book. I wasn’t expecting it to address what I talked about in the above paragraph. I was taken aback and surprised by that. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. I have read books where abortion, anorexia, and drug use have run rampant. What surprised me was how calm the characters were about this stuff. That includes the adults. I was left shaking my head after some scenes. I was shocked that Kate and Marine’s friendship lasted as long as it did. Their friendship was an anomaly in a world where competition and being the best was everything. Kate’s relationship (for lack of a better word) with the Demigod started the end of their friendship. Everything after that added fire to the flames. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about ballet. I knew that it was a very competitive dance. I knew that there were schools dedicated to it. What I didn’t realize was that the girls were held to an impossible standard. They had weight checks. That breakdowns, drug use, and suicide were common. I shouldn’t have been shocked by what the book revealed. But I was. I wasn’t sure if I liked the final chapter of the book. In a way, everyone got what they wanted. It didn’t sit right with me. But then again, with what Marine did and what Kate threatened to do, it went well with what the book was about. I did like the book. But I wasn’t expecting the book to be so dark. I also wasn’t expecting the triggers. I also don’t think that Bright Burning Stars should be for young adults. New Adult, maybe. Young adult, no. Those are the reasons why I rated the book a 3.5 rating.
Bright Burning Stars was the first book I’ve read that had gone this deep, into this much depth on ballet. Other books had referenced it or the main character was teaching it but I never readany that had to do with learning the dance style itself. Bright Burning Stars went deep in depth. A.K. Small had been born in France and studied in ballet her whole life. So she knew what she was writing about. Marine and Kate were nearly model students and best friends. Something that “apparently” didn’t exist in this uber competitive world. Kate, a foreigner from America, didn’t have rhythm and was missing some of the technicalities. But she had stage presence and that counted for almost more. The trouble with Kate is that she had her mind occasionally preoccupied with the opposite gender. Saar, Cyrill and Brandon. She would put too much stock in them and that caused more problems than what should have happened. She also had just a touch of manipulation which didn’t bode well for making friends. Thus isolating herself more and making things worse. So much worse. Poor Kate suffered quite a bit in Bright Burning Stars. Kate was not mentally healthy and she slowly, so slowly, realized this throughout the story. But that unhealthiness caused a downward spiral that only stopped after Marine stepped in. Although, she had her own problems. Marine was not dancing for herself and therefore put way too much pressure on herself to succeed. She was not preoccupied by the opposite gender but rather on her looks. Not in vanity, but in an extremely unhealthy way. The Demigod, Cyrille, and Luc were the two boys that had a major impact on Marine’s life. They both helped and hindered her in their own way. Marine, as said by Kate in the book, was somewhat naive and prone to believe what everyone was saying. She didn’t want to think about anything other than succeeding. Because of that, Marine put a lot of stock on actions and that only increased the pressure on her. She had to show the person she promised that she succeeded. In the end, both girls get healthier and get back together. But they each had to suffer before that to happen. Bright Burning Stars was an extremely well written book. A.K. Small’s writing was amazing. The imagery was superb and she tackled hard, still somewhat taboo subjects with delicacy yet strength. The incidents in this book was eye-opening. The peek into the competitive world of ballet, enticing. It made me realize that to make magic, you need blood, sweat and tears.
No one should boil this down to “just a dance book.” It’s not. It’s so much more. It’s a beautiful, at times, intense portrayal of what it means to want something so much. The role, the boy, to live outside the constraints of what you’ve always known. It’s about figuring out who you are and what you truly want. And at its center is the complicated story of two friends who also happen to be rivals and ultimately have to forge their own paths. One of the best books I’ve read this year. The writing is wonderful and full of nuance, and the characters