May 21, 2015

Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Chairapotra

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Publication date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Received from publisher via Edelweiss (Thanks!)
Summary: 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. (goodreads.com)

The good
It's funny, a few days before reading Tiny Pretty Things I decided to watch the movie "Center Stage" on a whim (which, by the way, has a great soundtrack!). I've always had a love and appreciation for ballet. Even after I stopped dancing myself in high school, I continue to enjoy everything about it. Tiny Pretty Things tells the story of three girls – Gigi, Bette and June – who attend an elite Manhattan ballet school and they all want the same thing. To be seen and cast in starring roles. Gigi is the new girl that's already making a strong impression. She's genuine and kind and a breath of fresh air among the other ballerinas. Except, no one really sees it that way. They see her as the competition. Bette and June especially. Bette is a legacy at the school and a talented dancer. Her older sister is considered one of the best and she's determined to follow in her footsteps at any cost. June is also talented but often relegated to the understudy role. With pressure from her mother to succeed or else, she too is desperate to make her mark at the school.

There are a couple things this book does extremely well and one of them is diversity. This is a multi-racial cast of ballerinas, which I loved.  The authors address the struggles minorities face to fit a certain look at this school and how some of them (like Gigi) are breaking the mold. I can't think of another book that's spoken about this so openly. And the other great thing about this book? It really impresses upon the reader the all-consuming nature and pressure of pursuing ballet. I don't think everyone is led to the extreme measures described here (at least, I hope not!) but I don't doubt the intense desire to be seen is a real one.

(Major) Reservations
Part of this is my fault. I saw the word ballet and I immediately wanted to read it. But the synopsis on Goodreads clearly describes this book as being a cross between "Black Swan" and "Pretty Little Liars", not to mention soapy and drama-packed. And well, they certainly got that right! Unfortunately, that's not what I particularly enjoy reading. I am a big fan of realistic portrayals of ballet, like Bunheads by Sophie Flack which I still think is the best book about ballet I've read. The drama was just over the top and I kept thinking, ok this is kind of like a mystery so I'll get my answers in the end. And nope, no answers! I was so mad that I sat through all of this repetitious backstabbing and I still didn't get a resolution.

Drama aside, it was also hard for me to connect to the characters. I enjoyed Gigi's point-of-view the most so maybe if the book had been written entirely from her perspective I may have felt differently. I wanted to know and understand them all better.

Do I recommend?
It wasn't for me and I don't personally recommend it but if you like "Pretty Little Liars" and ballet, there's a good chance you'll enjoy this book a lot more than I did.

Collaborative feature with Alexa! 

What's your favorite ballet?
I've only seen two: Sleeping Beauty (years ago!) and more recently, Romeo & Juliet. Since the latter is more fresh in mind and it was truly beautiful to watch, I'm going to have to go with that one. But hopefully, I'll get to see a lot more ballets in the future! 

4 comments:

  1. I have a love/hate relationship with the dance world. Having grown up in the world of Abby Lee Miller, whenever I think dance, I think of a large woman screaming at me and putting me down. I've been meaning to read Bunheads because it sounds good. And CENTER STAGE!! I so love that movie. I like the idea that this has the added drama, so if I don't have to think about the dance stuff the whole time. And why do all these ballet books have such awesome covers??? It is like mandatory now or something.

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  2. You need to watch Swan Lake at least once in your life! It's one of my all-time favorite ballets (and I say so in my post today). And I was OBSESSED with Center Stage, and still am, particularly the dance during the showcase with those red toe shows!

    I'm sad that Tiny Pretty Things wasn't quite your cup of tea, though I totally get why! It's very, very, very dramatic and harsh, and if you're not looking for that kind of read, it won't work. I apparently was, hence me enjoying it tremendously ;)

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  3. I read Alexa's review before I came over here and I'm sorry neither of you liked it as much! I personally have never danced in any form so I'm more than willing to read books about them! I think I'll be skipping this book because it doesn't sound like my cup of tea. However, I might check out Bunheads!

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  4. Ah! It's so frustrating to read through an entire mystery and realize that the book isn't going to provide any answers. When I read the plot summary my first thought was Bunheads. It also sounds really similar to The Walls Around Us--I guess ballet can just be combined with any genre to make a book even more exciting!

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