Hieee! Welcome to Rhea’s Neon Journal! I’m so excited to be one of the people to have read Sona and Dhonielle’s Tiny Pretty Things early because THIS BOOK. YOU GUYS. I CAN’T. YOU HAVE TO READ IT. YOU JUST HAVE TO.
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.
Tiny Pretty Things was everything it promised it would be—dark, intense, dramatic. And, it was all the things I didn’t expect it to be—diverse, real, scary. When a book promises me a mix of Pretty Little Liars and Black Swan, obviously I’m going to finish the book in a single sitting. And I did. And I loved it, goddammit.
The book follows the three best dancers—Bette, June and Gigi—of a Manhattan ballet school that trains its students to enter the American Ballet Company. It is an exclusive school, only for the best of the best, and it takes your money to make you the best. But what it doesn’t tell you is how such a cut throat competition changes you and makes you do things you’d never do and be a person you don’t even recognise anymore.
Bette was the girl that the American Ballet Conservatory revolved around. To anyone in the school, it was easy to see that she had everything—the flawless doll body, the perfect boyfriend, the celebrity sister, the rich family. She was the perfect mean girl, destroying everything and everyone who stood in her path to being “luminous.” During the course of the book she did some things that were both awful and disgusting—but here’s the thing: seemingly, it’s normal for girls to want to destroy other girls who pose as competition to them. And that’s what Bette did. And she did it with hardly any amount of remorse.
June was the half Korean with an eating disorder. I think, of all characters that I read about in the book, June was by far the…darkest? I don’t know how to put it. She had a kind of hurt inside of her that was raw and unattended to and it was an open wound that kept on festering. The fact that all her friends had turned against her, combined with the frustration of not having known her father and coming from the heritage that she came from all came together and kind of kept breaking her, over and over and over. It hurt to read and she certainly did some wrong stuff, things that should have never been done under any circumstance. And I’m not saying I agree with her reasons, not at all. I’m saying that I understand where she comes from. I’m saying that I didn’t like her or her motives but I understood her.
Gigi was the newest entrant in the school…and probably it’s brightest—a fact that bothered both Bette and June. Gigi got the part that Bette had always dreamed of, and her arrival made June even more invisible to the teachers of the school. I think Gigi was the kindest soul in the school, except I’m afraid that certain things that happened with her in the book may have destroyed her positive outlook too. Gigi had her own set of problems—being the only African-American in a school where only white blonds were acceptable to be cast on stage was not easy for her. And she had other things to worry about. Things best explained in Gigi’s own voice. So it wasn’t like her life in the school was the easiest, but I daresay she let it affect her the least.
There was also an engaging cast of other supporting characters that I wished to constantly see more and more and more of. My favourites were Henri and Eleanor and if there’s a sequel (PLEASE GOD LET THERE BE A SEQUEL AND LET THIS BE A SERIES) then reading them both again is going to be wonderful! And gah, I would totally read spin offs based on each single supporting character because yes, they were that wonderful. Each single character said or did or thought something that made me want to weep and laugh and curse and sometimes all of them.
I’ve never been personally involved in a world such as the one in this book, the authors have brought me as close to it as I can ever be. I cannot even imagine that something like this happens to people—teenagers!—and that these same teenagers do things like this. And have these kind of things done to them. And the other thing I loved about this book? It doesn’t shy away from dark, controversial topics that need to be talked about. It talks about the good and light but it also talks about how we sometimes lack in our high and mighty education systems. It talks about romances and the gentle steps of a first love but it also talks about anorexia and ADHD. And it tackles each issue spectacularly, while also leaving no stone unturned in making the reader feel the pain and hurt that made up this book.
My favourite part about this book was the writing. So tense and wicked, but so true in its way of remaining faithful to each character. I’m not the hugest fan of a multiple POV (I don’t even like dual POVs) but Tiny Pretty Things gave me no trouble in shifting tracks while I read. Each character had her own voice, her own thoughts, her own life. And I could feel how good the authors are at what they do. If I could, I would go up to both the spectacular women behind this book and hug them for ten minutes each. These women made me cry for characters that were supposed to be evil and villainous. They made me want to rage at a system I’m not even a part of. And more than anything else, their writing reminded me EXACTLY why I continue to read.
Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton met while attending the New School’s Writing for Children MFA program. Sona is a journalist who has written for the New York Times, People, Parade, Cosmopolitan, and other major media. Dhonielle is a librarian at a middle school in Harlem and taught English at a cutthroat ballet academy. Together, the pair have also co-founded CAKE Literary, a boutique book packaging company with a decidedly diverse bent. Find them online at www.cakeliterary.com.