Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Author: A.K. Small
Released: May 21st 2019
Received: Book Tour/Review Request
Warnings: Eating disorders, drugs, abortion
I received a copy of Bright Burning Stars in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Bright Burning Stars is the debut novel by A.J. Small. The novel is a tale set in a French ballet school, and understandably it has a lot of the plot devices we’d hope and expect for it. But it’s more than that as well. It’s a coming of age story, a story where one has to learn what is best for them, and of course the story of the hardship dancers can come across while in training.
This novel was an interesting read, though understandable it was difficult at times. It’s so easy to forget that teenagers can be put through situations like this, for the sake of their art, but that doesn’t change the truth.
Warnings: This novel deals with a lot of the heavier elements associated with any field that is highly competitive, but especially the dance field. There’s a lot of pressure about weights shone in this novel, which understandably develops into eating problems and disorders. Likewise there’s drug use, and even a scene where one of the girls has to end her pregnancy or get dropped from the program. If these subjects are upsetting to you, consider yourself warned.
Bright Burning Stars was an enchanting yet disturbing tale of two girls in their journey to be the best. This novel may not have hit me so hard had it not been the first ballet novel I truly read (I know the synopsis of many, but I’ve never actually taken the time to read one before now), or maybe it would have. I can’t honestly say. I can say that there were points where it did hit me hard.
The juxtaposition between Marine and Kate it what really made this novel powerful, in my mind. Here we have two girls, from very different paths in life, trying to succeed in something they love: ballet. They have their own struggles with the art, and different elements where they truly shine.
The difference between how they handle the stress is where things really shone. One girl took her stress outward, while the other suppressed it. One kept making the same mistakes again and again, while the other learned from her mistakes and took action to prevent it happening again.
Seeing their stories spiral out of control, both together and apart, was truly fascinating. I don’t think the story would have been nearly so compelling had only one of them been included here. The conclusion did a great job of driving their different plots home, while also tying them back together in an unexpected manner.
Despite all of this, I do wish that I had more of a chance to know them. That sounds weird, I know. But something about everything made it feel like their emotions were muted. Likely the trauma and stress, and if so that means it was well written. Or maybe it’s the pace in which I read the novel – all in one sitting one Sunday morning.
I’m looking forward to seeing what else A.K. Small will write in the future. I absolutely loved the writing style as well as the unique perspective used for storytelling in Bright Burning Stars. For that reason I think that A.K. Small will be an author worth watching out for.