Three girls. One spot at the top. Who will be the victor?
Tiny Pretty Things is set in a prestigious dance academy in Manhattan. The plot follows three students: Gigi, Bette, and June. Gigi is the new girl, in more ways than one; she calls California home, but learns quickly that things are run a bit differently in New York. Bette is living in her older sister’s shadow; her sister is a graduate of the academy and Bette has many expectations to live up to. June is almost invisible, but desperately doesn’t want to be. The authors provide a wonderfully diverse character list; Gigi is black, June is half-Asian (her Korean name is E-Jun), and with a few characters from the LGBT+ community, readers will be able to see themselves in the cast.
The novel opens with a scene narrated by a girl that the reader soon finds out is no longer at the academy. Cassie is having a rough time at practice, and doesn’t want to blow her opportunity. She’s at a lower level than the other girls, and with a solo usually reserved for an older student, Cassie knows that she’s can’t screw things up. It’s revealed that she spent the previous night drinking with Bette, and with the pressure on her, Cassie and her partner stumble.
The next chapters alternate between Gigi, Bette, and June, and it’s told that Cassie was injured so badly during the fall shown in the prologue that she left the academy. Her boyfriend, Henri, is still a student, and has suspicions about what actually happened during Cassie’s fall. More secrets are uncovered, with each girl trying to hide the truth from their classmates.
Gigi’s heart condition has the potential to sideline her from dancing —permanently. When June, who also happens to be her roommate, discovers this information, she uses it to her advantage, thinking that she can knock Gigi out of the competition.With June’s eating disorder causing suspicions from the academy’s nurse, she is finding it harder and harder to keep things under control. Her former friend and roommate, Sei-Jin, tried to kiss June, and June did not reciprocate. She knows that if she tells anyone, especially Sei-Jin’s Korean mother, (who is just as strict as her own mother), all hell would break loose. She decides to keep this information to herself, to use to later blackmail Sei-Jin.
Similarly, Bette is holding her own secrets, and others’. She and her boyfriend Alec seem to have the perfect relationship, but Alec soon breaks up with Bette, and moves on with Gigi, giving Bette motivation to single Gigi out of the pack for bullying and pranks. Bette’s secret pill addiction increases after Gigi and Alec become a couple, even more so than when Bette was taking pills solely to distract herself from her alcoholic and abusive mother. She’s also hiding her former friend Will’s secret. Will is Alec’s best friend, and another dancer at the academy. He told Bette that he had feelings for Alec. However, Will told her this while Alec was still with Bette, and when she didn’t take Will’s words too kindly, their friendship ended.
There are several romantic scenes between characters, and the juiciest ones all happen to contain one common element: Henri! These scenes don’t bog down the plot, but with all of the competition between the characters, there’s not a lot of time for romance!
Each chapter moves almost seamlessly from girl to girl. With tensions racing through the competition for the leads and best roles in the academy’s productions, the students will do anything to claw their way to be, in their ballet master eyes, luminous.
Blackmail, injuries, gossip and more flood the pages, giving Tiny Pretty Things deliciously devious turns.
Just when you think you have figured things out, the plot (forgive this next turn of phrase, after all, this is a novel about ballerinas!) takes a fouetté in a different direction. Ending on a doozy of a cliffhanger, readers will cry out for resolution…which is what I did, until I tweeted at the authors, and found out that a sequel is slated for next spring. Phew!
With Misty Copeland recently announced as the first person of color for the head of the American Ballet Theater, Tiny Pretty Things would find a fanbase quickly. On the small screen, viewers (including this one!) still mourning the loss of the Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Bunheads could discover a new, and slightly more sinister side to the world of dance. Fans of the film Center Stage might also enjoy this adaptation!
For casting, Keke Palmer (most recently seen on Scream Queens) would be lovely as Gigi, Kiernan Shipka (of Mad Men fame) could pull off Bette’s snow queen demeanor, and Chloe Bennet (Skye on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) could do a fantastic job with June’s double life. Of course, I don’t know how well these actresses could perform the ballet routines, but from their acting, I think they would be a lot of fun to watch!
Content Note: There is some sexuality in this teen book.
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be
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