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.
Tiny Pretty Things is a contemporary novel about the high stakes world of professional ballet. The story revolves around Bette, Gigi and June, three of the academy’s top dancers, and the various ways in which their world is messed up. Gigi is a newcomer to the academy, and a black girl, which makes her rarity in both cases. Bette and June feel like she took their places in the hierarchy – Bette because she was top and in line for the lead role, while June is mostly projecting her feelings of being relegated to second-best onto Gigi. Soon, Gigi gets the main role, Bette’s boyfriend and the adoration of everybody; she is genuinely good and effervescent, which doesn’t sit well with the other two, because they have darkness within them they like to hide. So, the pranks and the bullying begins, and escalates to dangerous points.
In shifting perspectives, you see the girls’ motivations, dreams, and pressures getting to them. But hiding in the shadows, I felt, was Henri, the ex-boyfriend of Cassie, who the previous year had undergone the same treatment as Gigi. He seemed like a shady character and I felt her orchestrated much of the events. June, while being apart from the main drama, is mostly fighting to keep her place in the academy – and her being half-Korean isn’t exactly in her favor, with the Russian teachers preferring the white girls. Bette eventually strives to be just better as a dancer, though she still has her hangups about Alex, while June grows more desperate. It is a dark novel and the characters are hugely in the gray area, with adequate writing devoted to the progression of each. I, however, felt that the pace of the novel was overall, very slow even though the events were spread out over a year. The primary reason being the direction of the story feeling aimless around the middle, and that it tended to come back over the same arcs. The ending, however, still retained my confidence in this series and I am eager for sequels.
Received a free galley from HarperTeen, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.