“What would you do for the prize?”
Rating: 4/5 stars
Thank you to Alqonquin Young Readers for reaching out and inviting me to be a part of this blog tour!
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.
Well…for starters I was not expecting this to be as dark as it was, however, that made it all the more difficult to put this one down. Ever since I watched Black Swan years ago I became super intrigued at how cutthroat the ballet/dance world is. The time and dedication dancers put into perfecting their look, their body, and their moves is both amazing and horrifying at times to see the lengths some of these dancers will go to. This book absolutely nailed that fine line of amazement and horror.
Marine and Kate, are both dancers at Nanterre, think a super elite dance school in Paris. Initially, Marine and Kate make a pact that they will do everything they can to win the Prize together, which essentially is an opportunity for the best dancer to join the dance company. But as the competition gets closer the girls know only one of them will make it and both of them will do whatever it takes to win that spot, even if it means ruining their friendship. I can’t say that I was smitten by either of the characters because they’re really not lovable people and I wasn’t rooting for one more than the other, however, due to how fast paced this book is I still found myself racing to see how it ends regardless of not really loving either of the girls.
Now, on to how dark this book got! First and foremost, please know that this paragraph will be about the trigger warnings in this book, but some may also find these to be semi-spoilery – so please read at your own risk. This book tackles some heavy issues, ones that I was not expecting to be so severe but I’m sure are also a very common thing in the competitive dance world. For me personally, these did not change the way I felt about the book but in fact made the story that much more compelling and left me desperate to know how it ends. Some of the topics you can expect in this book are drug use, abortion, grief of a loved one, parental abandonment, eating disorders, suicide/suicide attempt, and body dysmorphia. So yeah, some pretty heavy stuff and while at first I was nervous how this was all going to be handled I do have to say that it definitely does take a more positive turn in the end.
While I won’t give away the ending just know I was extremely happy with it. Books that tackle heavy topics like this and end on an open ended note have a special place in my heart. All in all, this was a fantastic debut and I absolutely cannot wait to read more by this author. As a dancer herself you can tell how much of her heart and soul she poured into this book to bring it to life. Bright Burning Stars is out now and definitely deserves a spot on your TBR. Trust me, you won’t be able to put this one down.
Until next time,