Book Review: Tiny Pretty Things
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Page Count: 448
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
Ballet is a world I have no experience with aside from the dozens of times I have watched Center Stage and the holiday trips to see The Nutcracker performed. It is a world that functions behind stage curtains and doors that lead to rooms lined with mirrors. For the beautiful and talented in this novel, it is a world full of possibility and greatness, but a darkness hovers at the edges. What if the drive to be the best turned more sinister? What if the need to be the star led to darkness and pain? Tiny Pretty Things focuses on the darkness of the human soul and how competition can breed ugliness.
The novel focuses on three beautiful and talented dancers: Bette, Gigi, and June. Bette is the queen bee of the dance academy. Everyone knows her and everyone fears her. Rumors swirl that she's done some pretty reprehensible things to land her parts, but nobody is willing to take her on. Bette has everything - the perfect body, the perfect boyfriend, talent, wealth - but underneath her perfect facade lurks a damaged heart that is twisted with desire and pressure to succeed. Bette must keep up with her sister's accolades and never let her mother down. Everything begins to disintegrate for Bette the moment Gigi moves to town. Gigi is the new girl, a recent transplant from California. She also happens to be the only African American at the ballet school. Gigi struggles with trying to find her place in a world so different from her own. She represents the calmness in the middle of the storm (at least in the beginning). It soon becomes clear that Gigi is Bette's opposite in almost every aspect. The girls are not only battling it out for the prime spot on the dance floor, but also for the heart of the handsome Alec. Lastly, June is one of those girls that moves in the shadows and largely goes unnoticed. She is the understudy, never the lead. June craves the spotlight as much as Bette and she's willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. How far will Bette, Gigi, and June push themselves and others to be the prima ballerina?
It was difficult to read this one at times because Gigi was the only girl in the trio that I liked. Bette is self serving and manipulative. She is the type of person who makes my skin crawl. I hated watching her torture Gigi and learning about the things that she had done to Cassie. It felt like Bette only cared about Alec and once he was gone she did nothing but obsess over him. June, on the other hand, is straight up crazy. June makes Bette's obsessive behavior look like child's play. While some of the incidents in the novel are left ambiguous, it was hard for me not to lay the blame at June's feet. In some ways, I disliked her more than Bette because she hurt someone who had done nothing to her except be a better dancer. She constantly complains about not having friends, but her actions illustrate why that concept is true. There were moments when I would begin to feel sympathy for Bette or June, but they would quickly squelch it with another heinous behavior. I truly felt like Gigi was the victim throughout the entire novel. It broke my heart to see her be punished so brutally by her classmates. These girls take bullying to the extreme.
The entire novel has a sense of foreboding about it which I found highly enjoyable. My mind kept piecing together everything that was happening to Gigi in an attempt to pinpoint the person(s) responsible. My biggest complaint with the novel was the ending. I didn't feel that I got solid proof of who was behind the incidents. Everything felt unresolved. It is still nagging at me like a loose thread on a favorite sweater. I don't always need stories tied up with a nice, neat bow, but I would have preferred less ambiguity. It also felt abrupt after the novel had been intricately detailed.
In spite of my frustration with the ending, I felt like this was a strong debut novel for Charaipotra and Clayton. I was thrilled to see diverse main characters who were well written; I certainly want to see more of this in YA. There also was a fair bit of commentary on ethnicity and culture. It made me stop to consider how race, ethnicity, and culture play out in arenas such as ballet. I liked that Gigi was breaking the barriers and showing everyone that you didn't have to be tiny, pale, and blond to be an amazing ballerina. I also enjoyed thinking about what drives people and how competition can spawn into something ugly and negative. The pressure to be successful is taken a bit too far on multiple occasions in this novel. Bullying and eating disorders are also addressed in this one. All in all, I think the authors did a nice job of portraying difficult topics while still managing to spin a ballet thriller of sorts.
One Last Gripe: That ending - grrrrr
My Favorite Thing About The Book: The tension - it made me want to read quickly to find out what was going to happen next
First Sentence: It always feels like death.
Favorite Character: Gigi
Least Favorite Character: This is a tough one, but I'm going with June.
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.