Bright Burning Stars

Bright Burning Stars

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...

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Title:Bright Burning Stars
Author:A.K. Small
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Bright Burning Stars Reviews

  • Nenia ⭐ Literary Garbage Can ⭐ Campbell

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    Books about dance and ballet are so compelling; it is a strict discipline that requires physical and intellectual fortitude. Add into the mix the usual blend of angst and poor decision making found in your typical young adult book, with a dash of cutthroat competition, and you have BRIGHT BURNING STARS: a book about a prestigious ballet school near Paris where failure means elimination, and success means sacrificing

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    Marine and Ka

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    Books about dance and ballet are so compelling; it is a strict discipline that requires physical and intellectual fortitude. Add into the mix the usual blend of angst and poor decision making found in your typical young adult book, with a dash of cutthroat competition, and you have BRIGHT BURNING STARS: a book about a prestigious ballet school near Paris where failure means elimination, and success means sacrificing

    .

    Marine and Kate are best friends. Marine is French, Kate is American. They've been close since their first year of ballet school, and now it is their last and only one boy and one girl will walk away with the coveted "Prize," a ticket to professional ballet. Everyone else will go home. Both girls want to be the best, but one of them wants it more than the other. As tensions rise, and each girl becomes a speeding train fighting to outpace the other to careen off a cliff and into a fiery finish, the reader can't help but wonder: will their friendship survive? And will they?

    I finished BRIGHT BURNING STARS in a single day. It's beautifully written and both girls are realistically flawed. It actually reminded me a lot of WHITE OLEANDER in some ways - toxic relationships, substance abuse, destructive behavior, and sex, all drowning in angst and exquisitely wrought prose. There's trigger warnings across the board, but if you can stomach the dark content, the writing and the storyline, which is basically the ballerina equivalent of THE HUNGER GAMES, totally make the struggle worth it.

    Oh, and there's beautiful boys, too, for those of you who are into that sort of thing. The main boy, who ends up involved with both girls, is nicknamed "the Demigod" for his dancing and romantic prowess, and his name is Cyrille. Everyone in the school has put him on a pedestal, but that only means that he has farther to fall. Luc is a mysterious boy who seems more earnest and tender than most, but he's got his own inner demons and reasons for competing. And lastly, there's Benjamin, another bad boy, only he's got tattoos and is more of a devil than a god, if you get me.

    BRIGHT BURNING STARS has everything I enjoy in a young adult novel, and while it doesn't exactly espouse feminist principles, I gloried in the high drama and illicit romance. I think this is a book that could just as easily be enjoyed by adults, as well as teens -

    certainly did.

    4.5 stars

  • Vicky Who Reads

    I SPED through this book (started it this morning) and it was very compelling although I have mixed feelings about some of it!

    Content Warnings (super huge + definitely recommend you look at these if you have any triggers):

  • Alana • thebookishchick

    Well...for starters I was not expecting this to be as dark as it was, however, that made it all the more difficult to put this one down.  Ever since I watched Black Swan years ago I became super intrigued at how cutthroat the ballet/dance world is. The time and dedication dancers put into perfecting their look, their body, and their moves is both amazing and horrifying at times to see the lengths some of these dancers will go to. This book absolutely nailed that

    Well...for starters I was not expecting this to be as dark as it was, however, that made it all the more difficult to put this one down.  Ever since I watched Black Swan years ago I became super intrigued at how cutthroat the ballet/dance world is. The time and dedication dancers put into perfecting their look, their body, and their moves is both amazing and horrifying at times to see the lengths some of these dancers will go to. This book absolutely nailed that fine line of amazement and horror.

    Marine and Kate, are both dancers at Nanterre, think a super elite dance school in Paris. Initially, Marine and Kate make a pact that they will do everything they can to win the Prize together, which essentially is an opportunity for the best dancer to join the dance company. But as the competition gets closer the girls know only one of them will make it and both of them will do whatever it takes to win that spot, even if it means ruining their friendship. I can't say that I was smitten by either of the characters because they're really not lovable people and I wasn't rooting for one more than the other, however, due to how fast paced this book is I still found myself racing to see how it ends regardless of not really loving either of the girls.

    Now, on to how dark this book got! First and foremost, please know that this paragraph will be about the trigger warnings in this book, but some may also find these to be semi-spoilery - so please

    . This book tackles some heavy issues, ones that I was not expecting to be so severe but I'm sure are also a very common thing in the competitive dance world. For me personally, these did not change the way I felt about the book but in fact made the story that much more compelling and left me desperate to know how it ends. Some of the topics you can expect in this book are drug use, abortion, grief of a loved one, parental abandonment, eating disorders, suicide/suicide attempt, and body dysmorphia. So yeah, some pretty heavy stuff and while at first I was nervous how this was all going to be handled I do have to say that it definitely does take a more positive turn in the end.

    While I won't give away the ending just know I was extremely happy with it. Books that tackle heavy topics like this and end on an open ended note have a special place in my heart. All in all, this was a fantastic debut and I absolutely cannot wait to read more by this author. As a dancer herself you can tell how much of her heart and soul she poured into this book to bring it to life.

    is out now and definitely deserves a spot on your TBR. Trust me, you won't be able to put this one down.

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  • Ashlee » Library In The Country

    View blog tour post on my blog

    Bright Burning Stars is a tumultuous, dramatic and frenzied read that shows the dark side of a competitive ballet school, in the vein of Black Swan.

    Best friends Marine and Kate would do almost anything to win the coveted Prize … to become one of the students retained for the Paris Opera’s ballet company. The problem? There is only room for one male and female pair. Despite their friendship, Marine and Kate are rivals and their loyalties to eac

    View blog tour post on my blog

    Bright Burning Stars is a tumultuous, dramatic and frenzied read that shows the dark side of a competitive ballet school, in the vein of Black Swan.

    Best friends Marine and Kate would do almost anything to win the coveted Prize … to become one of the students retained for the Paris Opera’s ballet company. The problem? There is only room for one male and female pair. Despite their friendship, Marine and Kate are rivals and their loyalties to each other will be tested. With sights set on the Prize, both girls become entangled with Cyrille, aka The Demigod, considered to be the best male dancer in the student company and a ballet prodigy.

    Things get pretty intense from here and I would only recommend this to mature readers, as the story tackles some realistic but tough topics. The relationships in this book are highly manipulative and toxic and the characters use each other for their own gain, while lacking a degree a emotional connection. Some of the darker themes in this story could have been better highlighted and discussed and the adults in this story certainly should have played a larger role in ensuring the mental and physical health of their students.

    That said, the setting of this book is superb and this is the type of book one could compulsively read over a weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the competitive aspect. You never knew what the characters would do next, especially Kate, to achieve their goals.

    Overall, this book is a dark contemporary showing how cutthroat the world of ballet is. This book is psychologically taxing at times, but never ceases in dishing out the drama!

    Trigger warning for eating disorders, mental illness, suicide, abortion, unclear sexual consent, and unhealthy romantic relationships and friendships.

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    Marine and Kate have attended the Paris Opera Ballet School since they were tiny. The two are the best of friends and have bonded over tragedy and dance.

    Just before their final year of school, a student is found murdered. This makes the girls question how far they would go to win. Winning means being selected to join the corps de ballet. There are many desperate options.

    Each girl gets closer to the top placed male dancer…this happens at the same time.

    Selection day approaches, and the girls are

    Marine and Kate have attended the Paris Opera Ballet School since they were tiny. The two are the best of friends and have bonded over tragedy and dance.

    Just before their final year of school, a student is found murdered. This makes the girls question how far they would go to win. Winning means being selected to join the corps de ballet. There are many desperate options.

    Each girl gets closer to the top placed male dancer…this happens at the same time.

    Selection day approaches, and the girls are now competing for both this guy and the corps. Their friendship lies in the balance.

    Bright Burning Stars captures the drama and cattiness that can occur behind the scenes in dance troupes. I took dance several years ago, and I remember the competition amongst dancers. It was fierce! The author was a dancer, and she has plenty of insight and real-life experience adding to this novel and making it feel even more authentic.

    Bright Burning Stars is a book about competition versus friendship, and how to win and have it all, we may have to lose those closest to us. Is it ever worth the sacrifice?

    I loved how the tension mounted as the corps selection approached. I felt an anxiety along with the characters. I intuited the pressure that each dancer feels, through their painful feet, all the way to their shaking hands. Overall, I found Bright Burning Stars to be an exciting and dramatic read.

    I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

    My reviews can also be found on my blog:

  • Berit☀️✨

    ᏗᏬᏖᏂᏋᏁᏖᎥፈ. ᏗᏰᏕᎧᏒᏰᎥᏁᎶ. ᎴᏗᏒᏦ.

    A.K. Small’s debut is authentic, absorbing, and dark. Marine and Kate have trained their entire lives to be ballet dancers. They are attending an elite ballet school in Paris. A rigorous competitive program with weekly rankings and only one female and one mail dancer earning a spot in the company at the end of it all. Kate and Marine have always been the best of friends, but can their friendship survive as the competition gets hotter?“What would you do for the prize?“

    ᏗᏬᏖᏂᏋᏁᏖᎥፈ. ᏗᏰᏕᎧᏒᏰᎥᏁᎶ. ᎴᏗᏒᏦ.

    A.K. Small’s debut is authentic, absorbing, and dark. Marine and Kate have trained their entire lives to be ballet dancers. They are attending an elite ballet school in Paris. A rigorous competitive program with weekly rankings and only one female and one mail dancer earning a spot in the company at the end of it all. Kate and Marine have always been the best of friends, but can their friendship survive as the competition gets hotter?“What would you do for the prize?“

    The competition, the pain, the stress, it was all so intense. Marine had amazing musicality and danced for her twin brother Ollie who had passed away. Kate has tremendous passion and a fire in her belly that was fueled when her mother abandoned her. Both girls had likable and not so likable qualities. I felt for them because they were living such a competitive life. I’d imagine being judged and raided every single week would lead to tremendous jealousy. There was always that nagging question of what would you do? How far would you go? The girls had even created a game around it, but at some point it’s as though the game turned into reality.

    This book also addressed many serious issues such as eating disorders, depression, abortion, obsession, and drug use. I applaud the author for taking these issues on, I’m sure they are prevalent in the dance world. However, I kind of felt as though these issues were just glossed over with no real resolution or consequence. This is a young adult book and I do want to make it clear that these issues were also not glorified, they just probably needed some more comprehensive discussion. My daughter was a competitive dancer (yes I was a dance mom) certainly not at this level, but I did find a lot of this very relatable. Made me wonder though how this would appeal to people without much dance knowledge? There is a lot of dance terminology, not that you need to know it to understand the book. But this is a book about dance, the dance world, the dancers, end it is dark. And it is real. And it is raw. Just like the dancers leave it all on the stage, Miss Small left it all on the pages of this book.

    *** many thanks to Algonquin for my copy of this book ***

  • TL

    I bought this when I visited my best friend in May but it was Nenia's review that pushed me to pick this up when my book-confidence was running low (bookslumps suck!)

    This was an intense and beautiful book. Made me glad I wasn't a part of the dancing world.. I don't know if I could survive the competitive atmosphere and the intensity of it.

    You have to admire dancers and gymnasts... the control over their bodies and the artistry blows me away sometimes... well, all the time :)

    At times I wanted to

    I bought this when I visited my best friend in May but it was Nenia's review that pushed me to pick this up when my book-confidence was running low (bookslumps suck!)

    This was an intense and beautiful book. Made me glad I wasn't a part of the dancing world.. I don't know if I could survive the competitive atmosphere and the intensity of it.

    You have to admire dancers and gymnasts... the control over their bodies and the artistry blows me away sometimes... well, all the time :)

    At times I wanted to smack certain people and the stuff the dance world put these characters through. As the story goes on, you understand more of everyone.. little and not so little things happen that, for me, made the story more compelling and I was more... understanding of everything I guess? That came out wrong but I hope you get what I mean.

    Small doesn't shy away from the difficult stuff, or makes it all magically go away when certain things happen.

    A couple of times

    crossed my mind... not making comparisons, just my personal impressions/mini impressions.

    This book deserves all the praise and I hope more people pick it up. It was really easy to get lost in this and not come up for air, so to speak.

  • Amy Imogene Reads

    3.5 stars

    is compelling, feverish, and claustrophobically competitive—but its trigger warnings and character arcs were hard for me. This is the case of a story that was written well, described well, and covered a unique place setting in YA....but ultimately did not work for me to due its handling of dark themes.

    ★★★★★

    ★★★ 1/2

    ★★★ 1/2

    ★★★★

    I did not like certain elements.

    3.5 stars

    is compelling, feverish, and claustrophobically competitive—but its trigger warnings and character arcs were hard for me. This is the case of a story that was written well, described well, and covered a unique place setting in YA....but ultimately did not work for me to due its handling of dark themes.

    ★★★★★

    ★★★ 1/2

    ★★★ 1/2

    ★★★★

    I did not like certain elements.

    follows the split POVs of two best friends, Kate and Marine, who are enrolled in their final year as Division One students at an elite ballet training school in Paris, France. Division One is ruthless, cutthroat, and unrelenting in its drive to win—at the end of the year, only one boy and one girl receive the Prize out of the handful of final year students. Enter the unhealthy competitiveness of the ballet industry that is forever immortalized in narratives such as

    , etc.

    .

    Kate and Marine find themselves dealing with their own individual insecurities and disorders over the course of the year in their drive to win the final Prize.

    It's not a perfect love triangle (it's actually pretty unique), but it's there in concept.

    is

    —she uses her relationship with Marine to make herself feel better, no matter the cost.

    and in my opinion, it fell into some problematic descriptions. Kate needs the approval of others and the feeling of success at the expense of those around her. In addition to blurring the lines of the professional and the friendly, Kate also

    —but more on that later.

    used to have a twin, but he passed away tragically and left her with the self-imposed burden of completing his dream of making it in the Parisian ballet scene without him. Marine is not "naturally thin" (whatever that means in this context, as she obviously is quite trim by default as a ballet student).

    as she attempts to internally compete with the thinner ballet students through an eating disorder that develops over the course of the novel.

    , and I was on board. BUT

    that occurred for each of them. This is not a wholesome novel, filled with happy endings. Like life it is messy, not always politically correct, and leaves you wanting more of an ending.

    On the one hand,

    . The writing was good, and the plot was unputdownable. I literally could not stop reading this story. However, I really struggled with the handling of several of the issues discussed. I think

    was here to share its truth in a raw, unflinching light—and it definitely succeeded. It just was not a favorite for me.

    *****

    Original notes: Ahhhhh it’s coming out this month! I should probably read the ARC now, yeah? Can’t wait to dive into the cutthroat world of the Paris Opera Ballet in this YA.

  • Kristy K

    I fell in love with this cover and was eager to read this book. I love books with dance in them and thought this would offer a good glimpse into the competitiveness of ballet. However, I have never been a fan of toxic female relationships; there are few books I've read where I thought that was done successfully. Unfortunately, there was a lot of problematic issues that stemmed from Marine and Kate's friendship and not all were handled well.

    touches on ballet culture, eating d

    I fell in love with this cover and was eager to read this book. I love books with dance in them and thought this would offer a good glimpse into the competitiveness of ballet. However, I have never been a fan of toxic female relationships; there are few books I've read where I thought that was done successfully. Unfortunately, there was a lot of problematic issues that stemmed from Marine and Kate's friendship and not all were handled well.

    touches on ballet culture, eating disorders, abortion, and toxic relationships (both friendship and romantic). It was a lot of serious topics, probably too many to tackle in one book, and I wasn't a fan of how many were handled. I wish they would have been explored in more detail and fleshed out better.

  • Sherwood Smith

    In my own mind, ballet or dance books fall into two categories: those that focus on the euphoria of performance, especially when aware that one is dancing their best, and then there are those that look at the darker side of dance.

    Take a glance at the cover. Pretty, isn’t it?

    But look at that dancer’s eyes. It’s a very suitable cover for this book, centered around a pair of dancers at the prestigious Paris Opera House ballet school in Paris. These two girls swear eternal friendship—while competi

    In my own mind, ballet or dance books fall into two categories: those that focus on the euphoria of performance, especially when aware that one is dancing their best, and then there are those that look at the darker side of dance.

    Take a glance at the cover. Pretty, isn’t it?

    But look at that dancer’s eyes. It’s a very suitable cover for this book, centered around a pair of dancers at the prestigious Paris Opera House ballet school in Paris. These two girls swear eternal friendship—while competing strenuously, along with the rest of their class of “rats,” to be the single dancer chosen to get the Prize, a chance of promotion to the Opera House.

    A dancer I once knew told me about a recurring dream she had: she walked out onto the stage to perform barefoot. The stage was covered with what appeared to be glittering snow, but as she took her first leap, she looked down to discover it was really glass shards. And somehow she had to keep herself dancing in the air, for if she landed, she knew the glass would cut her feet to ribbons.

    Reading

    brought back that dream told me some thirty years ago. The details of ballet are impeccable in this book. The plot gains tremendous velocity as our two dancers, Kate and Marine, compete with their class, and with each other, not only for the Prize, but for the attention of the charismatic boy who leads the male dancers, whose self-absorbed drive would give any girl outside of that high-octane atmosphere serious pause.

    Who will excel enough to win? By the time you find out, ending the book with somewhat the same emotional exhaustion of a day-long rehearsal, you reflect on the price of that contest, which runs the gamut of mental illness, suicide, emotional dysfunction, abortion, drug abuse, and of course the extremes of self-abuse in order to achieve that admired skeletal profile. It’s compellingly written, but all in all, it’s more a cautionary tale than a celebration of the sheer exhilaration of dance.

    About the only debut-writer problem I found with the prose in this book was the occasional interlarding of French phrases—which were then translated into English, calling awkward attention to the fact that the book takes place in Paris, and everybody is speaking French. Perhaps the editor gave that a pass (or even demanded it) because the book is slanting for a teen audience, which makes it even more puzzling—I’d think that any reader who is able to deal with abortion, drug use, suicide, eating disorders, and severe emotional disfunction is more than capable of figuring out simple sentences from context. (If she’s not already studying French because of an interest in ballet.)

    Copy provided by NetGalley

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