I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra, Dhonielle Clayton
Series: Tiny Pretty Things #1
Published by HarperTeen on May 26th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Format: E-book, paperback
Reading Challenges: 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge
Source: ARC from Edelweiss, Purchased from Amazon
Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.
Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet-star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.
When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.
Last week I posted a review of We Know It Was You, which was promoted as “Pretty Little Liars meets Twin Peaks.” And I said that book failed to meet those expectations. So this week I’m bringing you a review of a book promoted as “Pretty Little Liars meets The Black Swan,” and I’m here to tell you that this book definitely exceeded my expectations and lived up to that comparison.
Tiny Pretty Things is the story of three ballerinas at a competitive ballet school. Bette is the queen bee, the girl who believes she deserves to be the prima ballerina due to her family’s legacy in the ballet world. But she is living in her sister’s shadow and finding that she’s constantly playing second fiddle to the new girl, Gigi. Gigi an African-American dancer with a raw talent. Though she’s a newcomer to the school, she has taken quickly to her craft and her innovative take on the traditional form has captured the eyes of those in charge. And June is the perpetual understudy. Though she is good, she internalizes her own stress and anxiety with an eating disorder that she carefully hides from the company nurse. These girls, along with others in their year, fight over boys and the spotlight…and shit gets real, real fast.
The story is told with a mysterious nod to Cassie, a ballerina at the top of the class who left the school in the prior year after an “accident.” The details are left a mystery as a new mystery is revealed in the current school year: someone is attacking Gigi because she keeps getting the best roles in every show. The threats start small: words written on walls, notes, that type of thing. But things escalate quickly to acts that are clearly intended to harm Gigi and force her to leave the school for good.
The strength of Tiny Pretty Things lies in its characters. Bette, Gigi, and June are all well developed characters with distinctive narrative voices. Each is both victim and bully, and each occupies areas of grey morality. The story is more sympathetic to Gigi throughout, but all are fascinating and nuanced examples of the different ways in which the high stress world of ballet intersects with adolescent drama. This is also one of the few YA novels that really gets racial diversity right. Gigi is African-American and June is Korean-American, and race is discussed candidly in terms of how it affects their treatment in the academy, their families, and the world at large. However, this portrayal avoids stereotypes and feels authentic to the story. I really appreciated this and wish I saw it more often in books for this age group.
It’s worth noting that Tiny Pretty Things is the first book in a series, so the story is not neatly tied up at the end. There are a lot of loose ends for the authors to tie up in Shiny Broken Pieces, so readers may want to be prepared by having the second book close at hand upon completion of the first — you may not want to wait to find out what happens next!
FINAL GRADE: B
This book exceeded my expectations, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in ballet, drama, and diverse reads. Even though I didn’t give it my coveted A rating, you can expect to see this on my year-end favorites list. It has solid writing, great pacing, a keeps-you-guessing mystery, and fascinating characters. I’m glad I read it and can’t wait to pick up the sequel!