Authors: Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton
Read: August 16th, 2015
Release Date: May 26th, 2015
Genre: contemporary, mystery
In short: morally grey characters and great thinking on racism and homophobia, against the backdrop of a cutthroat ballet academy? Sign me up! Even the eh ending didn’t take away from my enjoyment.
Goodreads: 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.
I loved Black Swan, and Tiny Pretty Things was no less of a ride. It didn’t start off so great for me, but as the characters spiralled deeper and deeper into the paranoia that comes with fierce competition, things only got better and better.
Not to mention the diversity and the handling of race issues! You go, authors!
≫ THE PLOT:
Maybe it’s ballet. I don’t know. There’s only room for one star. And everybody else doesn’t matter.
The prestigious American Ballet Conservatory is performing The Nutcracker this season. Most prestigious of all is the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy—students of the academy can find assured places in the company if they star in these productions. So when Gigi, a black girl from California new to New York and the conservatory, gets the role, everyone is stunned. And no one more so than Bette, aspiring to follow in the footsteps of her star ballerina sister, and June, quiet and consistently hardworking. Gigi finds herself on top of a perilous hierarchy all of a sudden, and Bette and June will do whatever it takes to take her place. On top of everything, there’s the mystery of another rising star, Cassie, and her fall from grace.
≫ THE PROTAGONISTS:
We get the perspectives of Gigi, Bette, and June, and I loved reading about all of them.
Gigi’s the quintessential good girl—sweet, helpful, and naïve. At first I was a bit annoyed by how saccharine she was, but I’d say one of the best parts about Tiny Pretty Things was the way the competition affected her, the way the moral dilemma ate at her because she’s essentially a ‘good’ person. Not to mention, Gigi’s presence in a field that emphasises traditional, Western beauty made for some great commentary on race.
Bette is Gigi’s polar opposite, the blonde, rich ice queen with a trust fund. She’s clearly meant to be the most unlikable, but (because I’m odd like that) I found myself liking her far more than I should. Bette is absolutely stifled by expectations. Her ballet star sister is one of the best the conservatory has ever seen, and Bette constantly strives to follow in her footsteps. Coupled with that is Bette’s alcoholic, controlling mother. Bette could have been so flat and one-dimensional but I loved the way she was written, the stereotypical prima ballerina. Never once did she feel like the cardboard cutout mean girl, and I genuinely sympathised with her.
Like Bette’s, June’s mother is controlling too—except far worse. June’s mother is the only family she’s ever known, and keeps her on a short leash. Perfection is not an option, it’s a requirement. Though June’s mother was once a dancer at the conservatory, she constantly pressures June to give up ballet and do something serious, and complains that June doesn’t embrace her Korean heritage as she should. June is definitely the most complex out of the three girls, and I could never really decide whether I liked her or not. Of course all three girls have secrets, but I’d say June’s was the most serious, and the glimpse into that was frankly terrifying. Despite the fact that June’s decisions were so often questionable, I still felt for her.
≫ THE OTHER CHARACTERS:
Just like the three protagonists, all the other characters have ugly underbellies—or they consist of only the ugly underbelly. From Bette’s posse of ‘mean girls’ to the teachers, everyone toed the line of darkness. The most fascinating one deserves a mention: Will, the best friend of Bette’s boyfriend, who’s gay. We get a really painful look at how (contrary to what you’d expect) men in ballet are supposed to embody the perfect ideal of Russian masculinity, and because of Will’s sexuality, he’ll never get where his talent and hard work should rightfully take him. Bonus: his homophobic family! I loved Will, and the way these issues were handled. Other than that we have a whole load of interesting characters. Bette’s sister Adele was another of those morally grey characters; I think she’s definitely complicit in their mother’s abuse of Bette. The mysterious Cassie’s French boyfriend was a nice element of chaos thrown in there, just to sway the teetering hierarchy a bit. I only wish Bette’s boyfriend Alec had been a tad less boy-next-door; I didn’t feel the same sense of moral in-between with him, which was a letdown.
≫ THE ROMANCE:
You know I am not particularly a fan of love triangles—understatement of the century there—and ones in the vein of Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf squabbling over Nate Archibald put me off even more. The triangle between Bette, Gigi, and Alec, Bette’s boyfriend, brought a whole new load of drama to the table—drama that felt a bit wearying and petty. I also didn’t really feel the connection between Gigi and Alec. June’s romance felt pretty twisted to me, and as such a little too unresolved for my liking. Overall, though, this book is less romance-oriented, so the fact that I wasn’t a fan of the lovin’ didn’t matter much.
≫ THE ENDING:
What is with these inconclusive endings? The cliffhanger here was really, really unnecessary. It would really have been quite easy to give us a big reveal. I have a really solid theory about it, and I’m almost positive I’m right, but I’ll never know now, will I?
≫ TO SUMMARISE:
If you’re into dark drama, definitely read Tiny Pretty Things. Just remember to hang in there for the beginning, and keep the popcorn at hand when things get juicy.