Blog Tours, Book Reviews

Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small [Book Review & Blog Tour]

Today I am working with Algonquin Young Readers to talk about this book which just came out in paperback. The cover is gorgeous, and it will be a hit with those who love dark books about the world of ballet. This is the story of two best friends in the ballet world, wondering if they will survive school and each other! The paperback is out now, so if you want this, make sure you take the time to order it!


Kate and Marine have trained since childhood at the Paris Opera Ballet School where they formed an intense bond after respective family tragedies. Their friendship seems unshakeable until their final year when only one girl can be selected for a place in the Opera’s company. The physically demanding competition takes an emotional toll, and their support for each other starts to crumble. Marine’s eating disorder begins to control her life as she consumes less and dances more, and Kate discovers the depths of depression and the highs of first love as she falls for the school heartthrob—who also happens to be Marine’s dance partner.

As rankings tighten and each day is one step closer to the final selection, neither girl is sure just how far she’ll go to win. With nuance and empathy, the intense emotions of teenage years are amplified in Small’s debut as the girls struggle with grief, mental health issues, and relationships, all set against the glamorous backdrop of Paris. 

With the incredible success of the film Black Swan and dance reality TV shows today, dance seems to be more popular than ever. Kirkus Reviews praises the debut as “addictive, angst-y, and heartfelt” while Entertainment calls out that Bright Burning Stars is “notable for the way it tackles sensitive topics such as mental illness and eating disorders”. In Bright Burning Stars, debut author A. K. Small pens 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.

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My Review:

3 Stars

CW: Eating disorders, abortion, and drug abuse. 

I was thinking this was going to be a Black Swan type book, and it was close in some ways. There are a lot of dark topics happening, and it shows how the world of ballet is not all perfect like some people think. It gives me an insight into the world as someone who knows nothing about dance and ballet school, and it was riveting to read about M and Kate. Though there were some times I did not enjoy the whole book, it is a still well written and I think many people will be able to enjoy this book. 

There is a lot of ballet world information in here. I learned a lot and appreciated how much goes into what dancers do. The author did ballet so it was all well done, and I was glad to know it does look as complex as it seems. I cannot imagine being a dancer, but I loved seeing into this world. I saw how a friendship can be tested and torn apart, about how love is not what we may think, and how the world is complex in many ways. 

I liked this book, but I did not love it. I can see this book working very well for those who love ballet and dark stories like this. I think I just wanted more than I could get from a YA novel, but it was still impossible to put down once I started to read it. 

Definitely pick up this book if you want a book you can get lost in and you enjoy reading about the world of dance.

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 Starsis her first novel.


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