Published by HarperTeen
Published on May 26th 2015
Genres: Adolescence, Dance, Girls & Women, Performing Arts, Social Issues, Young Adult
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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.
I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Before I start – just UGH HOW GORGEOUS IS THAT COVER? I love the delicate pink ribbon spelling out the title, slashed through with glass, and the black ribbon behind it. Glorious.
Tiny Pretty Things follows the story of three very different ballerinas at the American Ballet Conservatory as they compete and scheme to be the best and earn a spot at the Company.
I was flat out impressed by the worldbuilding in this. I swear I almost know my way around the Conservatory building. I don’t know much about ballet, but I do know a lot about performing, and I totally buy everything in this world, including the scheming backstabbers.
The biggest problem with this novel is the inconsistent characterisation. I’m not sure if this is the effect of the book being written by two authors, but I found myself getting whiplash over the main characters’ antics, attitudes, and motivations. While they each had a base characterisation, their layers, what gave them motivations and goals to act upon, never seemed to line up and all seemed really inconsistent.
Bette is the hardworking legacy girl living in her sister’s shadow, the star of the school, who doesn’t exactly have the thinness of a typical ballerina. But she’s also majorly inconsistent. She’s utterly perfect, yet doesn’t get the lead role. She hates Gigi because she’s new and shiny and wild, but maybe she hates her because her boyfriend Alec leaves her for Gigi. And the worst part is she has an old knee injury we don’t even know about until two-thirds through the book – I mean, this is a major source of anxiety, and it’s only brought up when the book’s nearly over? Inconsistent. Not to mention she hates Gigi with a passion, glares at her at a gala and then a few hours later just suddenly decides to call a truce. We’re not privy to her motivations so it all seems very inconsistent. Then, at the very end, she’s the super obvious villain when in reality it could have been any number of girls (or boys) who want Gigi or Bette out of the spotlight.
Gigi is the new girl, a black Californian stealing the limelight from Bette, and has a heart condition and shouldn’t be dancing in the first place. She’s perfect and all the girls hate her. She can’t tell when glass has been placed in her ballet slipper until it’s too late. She’s constantly beating herself up because her new boyfriend ‘matches’ his ex and she can’t ever believe he really wants to be with her. She is also determined to find out who’s plotting against her – but only half the time, when it’s convenient to the drama of the plot for her to have a break down and temper tantrum.
June is the half-Korean girl with an eating disorder who doesn’t know her white father, who lives in the shadows and never gets the lead role despite ten years at the school. But her character is possibly the most inconsistent. She decides to take down Gigi because she wants the lead role she’s understudying, starts ‘pranking’ (the nice word for bullying?) and then just randomly gives it up for no reason. Then near the end of the novel she thinks, I WILL TAKE DOWN GIGI ONCE AND FOR ALL (dun dun duuun!). And then nothing. She also decides to get back at her ex-best friend by stealing her boyfriend, but then starts moping about ‘why won’t he choose me?’ Her half-assed attempts sabotage are at odds with her perfectionist, uber-controlled personality.
It’s like the authors didn’t want Bette to be the only bitch, to show how the other girls in the school were just as bitchy and backstabbing, but Bette was the only one who owned it, even though she played innocent.
The relationships here are all over the place.
Gigi likes June, even though June is a bitch to her.
Gigi is jealous of Bette, even though Gigi gets everything Bette ever had or wanted.
June hates Gigi. Except when she doesn’t.
Bette hates Gigi.
Bette likes June. Except when she doesn’t.
June feels kind of neutral towards Bette.
Then there’s Alec, whom Bette loves, and Henri, whom acts like a creeper towards her, both seducing and threatening, and Will, who is her ex best friend. Alec loves Gigi. Once again, June is delegated to the background, until for no reason whatsoever Will decides to share a secret with her… and Will himself is an inconsistent character because he’s in love with Alec, and then he’s in love with Henri, and then he’s in love with Alec again. Both of whom are straight.
While there were aspects I really enjoyed about the novel – the ballet classes, the rehearsing, the discussion of the roles and performances, and yes, even the backstabbing and petty cattiness, I was frustrated with the lack of consistent characterisation and motivation. I was also frustrated by the ‘mystery’ aspect of this book, because it wraps up without all the threads neatly tied together. We know Bette is responsible for some pranks on Gigi, but not all of them, and it’s heavily hinted June is responsible for several more, but there’s also Eleanor and Henri who both have something to gain from framing Bette, whom I’m convinced have something to do with some of the things that happened… but it’s not wrapped up and never made clear.
That’s because this novel has a sequel, and like with my review of Get Even, I absolutely hate with a passion when information is deliberately left out of telling a complete story in the hopes readers will be blackmailed into reading the sequel when it’s released. So I’m docking a star, because I should be able to read and enjoy a complete story in one book and not be forced to buy the sequel just to find out who the real bad guy is.
And to end this review on a happy note, enjoy the kitty who just wants to be a ballerina: