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 ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure.
But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other. (less)
This was a bit hard for me to read. The writing is excellent, and the characters were great, but reading about the dark side of the ballet world was a little depressing, frankly. I believe it’s a realistic portrayal, sadly, because I can’t image what these girls put themselves through: the abuse their body image takes and the physical and emotional demands they put on themselves.
Marine’s issues were scary, but at least she eventually realized it. Kate’s issues…her sometimes completely unfounded obsession with guys was just sad. She definitely has some delusions and mental health issues, in addition to her drug problem. It was sad that she didn’t realize that, though.
A.K. Small was born in Paris. Bright Burning Stars is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Algonquin in exchange for an honest review.)
Sparrow—Savannah Darcy Rose—thought she would be safe after her mother died. She thought she could finally stop hiding. She’s a gifted ballerina with a tight-knit circle of friends, she’s starring in a new production, and her future looks bright.
Then she meets Tristan: handsome, wealthy, the most popular boy in school. Sparrow is in love, but Tristan isn’t quite as perfect as he seems, and soon Sparrow finds herself keeping secrets from everyone. She’s not the kind of girl who tells, but after a brutal assault, she must learn how to open up to those around her.
This wasn’t an easy book to read. You could see the disaster looming…but you were helpless to divert it. Sparrow’s backstory is horrifying, and the emotional scars she bears lead to physical scars in her present. I loved her strength and determination—and the strong friendships made the novel shine.
Mary Cecilia Jackson loves being a Southerner and reading. Sparrow is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review.)
Cason Martin is the youngest dancer at the Atlanta Ballet Conservatory. She’s driven and determined, and she’s never really even considered if she wanted to dance. She never had a choice: her mother is the demanding artistic director at the conservatory and will not accept Cason being anything less than the best.
On the day of Cason’s injury, that ceases to matter, as an injury she’s been hiding turns out to be cancer. Now she finds herself in a children’s cancer ward, fighting to live and to come to terms with her new normal. Davis Channing knows how that feels. He survived cancer, and then beat drug addiction, although he lives with the temptation to use again every day. Volunteering at the cancer ward is his way to give back.
Cason and Davis’s friendship is tenuous, but what they both need, until his ex-girlfriend appears in his life, eager to lure him down old roads again, while the unthinkable happens to Cason. Turning their backs on each other is easiest, but is it what they really need?
Let me first say that I’ve never read The Fault in Our Stars, so I can’t make any comparisons to that novel (and I have no intention of reading it, because almost never will I choose to read a book that I know will make me cry. #sorrynotsorry). I found Brave Enough to be one of the most touching and inspiring books I’ve read this year. I felt for Cason on a deep level, and truly experienced her grief and other emotions along with her. Davis’s struggle was so well-done and brought an addict’s struggle to gut-wrenching life. Highly recommend!
Katie Gardner is a childhood cancer survivor, amputee, and a recovering actor. Brave Enough is her debut novel.
(Galley provided by North Star Editions/Flux in exchange for an honest review.)