The Power Of Fictional Ballet Dancers + Win a Copy of Bright Burning Stars (A.K. Small)! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to spotlight Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small.
Read on for more about A.K. and her book, an guest post, plus an giveaway!
Meet A.K. Small!
A.K. Small's debut novel, BRIGHT BURNING STARS, was published by Algonquin Young Readers in May 2019 and released in paperback March 2021. It was one of BN Teens Most Anticipated Books of 2019 and the cover was revealed at EW.com. It received a starred Kirkus Review and was a recommended read in the August issue of Cosmopolitan.
In addition to BRIGHT BURNING STARS, A.K. Small's second novel, FEATHER GIRL, is due to be released Fall 2022.
A.K. Small also spends time on short stories. Her short story, Anthrocon, 2017 was nominated for a Pushcart prize by the Bellevue Literary Review. Other stories such as the Flour Baby and The Interior Designer were also nominated or runner-up to prizes.
A.K. Small grew up in Paris near the Sacré Coeur, graduated from the College of William and Mary, and later received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Meet Bright Burning Stars!
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.
~ Guest Post ~
The Power Of Fictional Ballet Dancers
Bright Burning Stars, my first novel, took me years to write partly because I needed that long to hone in on my dancers’ personalities. I know ballet dancers—I was one for years. But who exactly were these girls? How did the world of ballet shape them? Marine is a 17-year-old dancer who exhibits a courage and grace I wondered if I would be capable of myself. Kate, her friend and competitor, has a darker side. The two of them share other traits common to ballet dancers—
dogged resilience, a high dose of zeal, yet also a certain fragility.
I wanted to write a book about girl empowerment, yet I knew that the competition and the demands of ballet would push my girls to their limit, both physical and psychological. I wasn’t sure how Marine and Kate would turn out. What if they weren’t empowered, but ruined? But by the time I put down my pen on my last draft, I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of respect for both dancers. They’d won, lost, nearly drowned, but in the end persevered through adversity, each with her own triumph. Their struggles illuminated not only the stage, their peers, and teachers, but me.
After seeing my girls through this trajectory, I was more curious than ever to explore other YA ballet books, hoping to discover more female characters bound to pointe shoes and to see what they brought to the page. I was looking for similarities and differences, how fictional dancers might resemble each other. What I noticed most was the recurring theme of tenacity, the ability to endure pain, and the undeniable obsession to always become better. Here are three standouts.
- The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma
In this spellbinding ghost story and bestseller, we meet Orianna and Violet, who are so committed to being the best that even murder seems possible. Suma plays with power in this story and shows how the gifted often have the most to lose. While it isn’t her focus, Suma uses ballet as a vehicle for obsession and heightened emotions. When Violet performs, her anger slips away and she loves everyone, but off stage, she unravels. Orianna has it all: the perfect feet, the extensions, the height, but her career is annihilated when she is sent to juvenile detention. The broken center of these girls—their deep wounds, dreams, and fears—had me shuddering and rooting for them.
- Bunheads, by Sophie Flack
In this nuanced and sophisticated story, Flack brings us Hannah Ward, a 19-year-old dancer who performs full-time with the Manhattan Ballet Company. She has wanted to be a soloist forever and left her family to live in New York when she was fourteen. Hannah is kind, driven, and so committed to her craft that she pushes everything else away—family, friends, even boys. When an NYU student begins to open her eyes to the real world, Hannah is faced with a choice: ballet or everything else. I wanted to hug this main character. I loved her one-track mind, her ambition, and wit. Her indelible grit. The stage for her is both a thrill and a security blanket, a safe place, as it was once for me.
- Pointe by Brandy Colbert
Theo, Colbert’s main character in this dramatic story, fascinated me. One of the only African-American fictional ballet dancers I have ever come across, Theo carries a complex sense of self both in the studio and out of it, even while bearing a trauma inflicted by an older man. Ballet is a place where she can forget the abuse she has endured, but never talked about. When a peer invades her sacred studio space and her best friend returns from a four-year disappearance, Theo must face her demons. Unlike the other fictional dancers, Theo never grapples with her love of ballet. She reveres dance and it grounds her, even as life outside the studio grows more complex and begins to fray. I found Theo to be vulnerable yet brave and exceptionally real, a girl willing to fight for her loved ones even at the cost of hurting herself.
In an era where the triumph of women and girls over adversity is more relevant than ever, these three books uplift complicated female characters dedicated to ballet. They vary at the core, but like Marine and Kate, are willing to do whatever is necessary to survive, and bloom, both on and off the stage.
Bright Burning Stars
By: A.K. Small
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: May 21st, 2019
One winner will receive a copy of Bright Burning Stars (A.K. Small) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*