Written by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton
Synopsis for Tiny Pretty Things
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.
and its sequel, Shiny Broken Pieces
June, Bette, and Gigi have given their all to dance at Manhattan’s most elite ballet school. Now they are competing one final time for a spot at the prestigious American Ballet Company. With the stakes higher than ever, these girls have everything to lose…and no one is playing nice.
June is starting to finally see herself as a prima ballerina. However, getting what she wants might cost her everything—including the only boy she’s ever loved. Legacy dancer Bette is determined to clear her name after she was suspended and accused of hurting her rival, Gigi. Even if she returns, though, will she ever regain the spotlight she craves? And Gigi is not going to let Bette—or the other dancers who bullied her—go unpunished. But as revenge consumes her, Gigi may be the one who pays the price.
After years of grueling auditions, torn ribbons, and broken hearts, it all comes down to this last dance. Who will make the cut? And who will lose her dream forever?
YA contemporary is my favorite category/genre to read (and write) and this series was quite the page turner. So much suspense!
I love that there were three point of views, each of which I could tell apart despite their being written in first person. I thought it was fascinating that Sona and Dhonielle chose the three main characters they did. In the first book, Gigi was a victim of pranks, some of which were done by the other two main characters, June and Bette. While this may seem like a risky move, it was done extremely well and paid off. They managed to make every character sympathetic despite their flaws and questionable morality. By giving us glimpses into Bette’s home life, June’s pressures and internal thoughts, we somehow felt for these characters despite the actions they took against our beloved heroine. Not that I didn’t want to scream at Bette or June (and Gigi in the sequel), but I felt like I understood them to a certain extent, and while their actions were not justified, their motivations were believable.
The point of view was also used extremely well in revealing moments, like when we watched a scene unfold through one of the characters eyes, finding out at the same moment as them who was responsible for one of the pranks.
I love how complex all the characters were. Bette was the popular, confident, “it”-girl at the school…but only on the outside. We saw the lonely, unloved, lost, and desperate girl she really was inside. Gigi was the envy of every girl at school, including Bette, for being the chosen one and the frontrunner for every coveted role. We saw what made Gigi special, but we also saw how hard it was to be her, something explored further in the sequel.
The romances were sweet and believable, and I loved so many of the Gigi-Alex and June-Jayhe moments.
And the dance scenes. So. Lovely. I danced for most of my life, and I loved how genuine and vivid these scenes were. It was clear that the authors were writing from experience, using ballet terminology that adds imagery if you’re familiar with ballet and flavor even if you’re not.
Your heart pumps blood and adrenaline and hope. Each turn, each leap, each role onstage brings you one step closer, reminding you that ballet is one with your heartbeat. Hard-tipped shoes lift your body above everyone else, making you weightless and ethereal.
The plinks of Viktor’s piano keys feel like waves that my hands, arms, legs, and feet wade through.
One of the best parts? The diversity. I loved that each of the three main characters came from different backgrounds: race, socio-economic status, family dynamics. Each of their upbringings shaped who they were and came up in the story in organic ways. Beautifully done.
I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with both Sona and Dhonielle (which in no way influenced my review), and they are such lovely people. I admire how much they support the writing community and the diverse books movement.
Some profound, thoughtful, important quotes from the books touching on diversity:
I was assigned a new kid, and of course she’s Asian. Riho Nakamura. She’s Japanese, which is a totally different country, but Mr. K doesn’t think about things like that.
“White swans have white legs. Then it would be easy.” She turns back to her table, comes back with another pair. “I have had to spend lot of time dyeing these tights. To make them even whiter. And no matter what, legs still too brown and you can see them right through it.”
“I’m sorry,” I say, and instantly hate myself for it.
She frowns. “It’s a big problem, you know. Messes up the whole costume, the whole look, the pictures. I have to special order.”
I gaze at my legs in the mirror. Through the thin nylon, I can see the brown color of my legs a little bit.
I want to say that it makes me feel uncomfortable that she’d even say something like that, that she’s rude and a little racist for even saying these things. Would she say the same to Bette or Eleanor? No, because their legs are white and blend easily with the tights.
“What do you want me to do about it?” I ask her with caution. She’s very powerful here. “I can’t change who I am.”
I want to add that I wouldn’t, even if I could. But I don’t say that. Cassie told me stories about girls Madame didn’t like who performed in costumes that were just a smidge too tight or tutus with pins left in them, pricking them at every turn. I remember June telling me about a girl who Madame Matvienko thought was a little too plump for the Arabian Coffee costume. The girl snatched it out of Madame’s hands and said she’d fix it herself. Three days later, she was dismissed from the conservatory.
If you love Center Stage, Bunheads, Mean Girls, or Pretty Little Liars, please check these books out!
Full disclosure: the first book ends with a cliffhanger so get both or else you may not know who did what and how things wrap up!