Bright Burning Stars winks out of light.

Bright Burning Stars winks out of light.

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.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

Bright Burning Stars

Author: A. K. Small
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Page Count: 304
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Cover Artist: -
My Rating: ★1/2

Bright Burning StarsBright Burning Stars by A.K. Small
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley, Edelweiss, and Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.


Content Warning: Overall dark and depressing tone, Depression, Self Harm, Underaged Drinking, Smoking, Sex, Forced miscarriage, Self-harm, Anorexia, Drug abuse, Suicide idealization, Death

”If you were only allowed to feel one, which would you pick, pain or numbness?”
I didn’t want to play Would You anymore. I shrugged.
“Come one. You have to answer,” Kate said.
“Numbness,” I replied.
“Not me,” Kate said. “I’d pick pain any day.”

When I say I typically don’t read contemporary, I should probably stick with that. When I first came across this book, though, I was interested due to the ballet aspect of it. To be honest, it was nice to have a momentary step away from the fantasy realm. However, I wished I would have spent this hiatus with a different choice. While Brightly Burning Stars has a few good points to it, most of it is very negative. As you can see from the content warning listed above, there is a lot of crap poor choices made, backstabbing, and too many other unpleasantries to really appreciate the dancing part of this book.

I’m not a ballerina. I took lessons when I was younger, but never went far with the discipline as I lost interest and developed it for other things–one being hip-hop dancing. No matter the type, I still appreciate dance. This aspect was the strongest of the entire book. This author knows her stuff when it comes to ballet and it’s easy to tell she’s intimately involved with it. Reviewing the other parts within the story is when it gets unpleasant.

The story is told in an alternating format between two best friends and fellow dancers–Kate and Marine. Both girls attend the Paris Opera Ballet School and are in their final year there. As competition gets stiffer, they begin to do whatever it takes to come out on top–and it gets messy. Boys, drugs, alcohol, and all sorts of destructive behavior takes both girls down paths they don’t exactly desire. As this happens, a chasm appears in their friendship and pulls them apart.

”Marine, notre monde, this world of ours–the stage and studios and barres–is intense and lonely. There is no space for friendships, love, or even an old and perhaps sacred bond between twins. Nothing shadows the art of dance. It’s a union of body, mind, and music. Classical dance is known for being ruthless. Any retired company member would tell you it’s a one-man show.”

If anything, this book is a glimpse into the dark lifestyles that people live when they only live for themselves and promoting their own gain.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t much to take away from this book. It think it teeters on the edge of dangerous for young readers, as there are some very touchy and serious topics like anorexia, forced miscarriage, and self-harm, and they never come full circle to promote readers to not follow suite. These are topics that shouldn’t be lightly included in a plot to make it thicken. Due to its content, this shouldn’t be a Young Adult book at all. While I liked the dedication to detail of the ballet-aspect of the book, I disliked pretty much everything else.

Vulgarity: Moderate
Sexual content: Explicit sex scenes resulting in pregnancy and forced miscarriage
Violence: Minimal.

My Rating: ★1/2

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I am the author behind Foals, Fiction & Filigree. An all-encompassing blog about horses, books, and my art.

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