Book Reviews

Blog Tour: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

A story about ballet, friendships, and competition? Count me in! Welcome to my tour stop on the blog tour for 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.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: restrictive eating, body dysmorphia, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, drug use, drug addiction, abortion

Bright Burning Stars is a book about ballet, female friendships, and finding our own path. It’s a book about ambition, dreams, and sacrifices. You can feel the competitiveness in the air, in the sweat, in the sound of ballet music. This boarding school meets ballet academy is one of ruthlessness. But at the same time, we witness this image of friendship in this desert. And we become transfixed as we watch is unfold as two very different, but  empathetic girls struggle with the balance between their dreams and their lives.

Growing up I was both a gymnast and a dancer, and so reading Bright Burning Stars was like being immersed again into that competitive atmosphere – the critiques, the pressure, the demand for perfection. And for those who haven’t experienced that (and my experience certainly isn’t the only one out there), Bright Burning Stars is a look into a world of ranking, perfection, and fear.


With this dual POV, Small allows us to witness two very different perspectives, Marine and Kate, and what they are willing to do to succeed and, most importantly, what success means to them. Is success being at the top of the leader board? And are they willing to sacrifice it all, even each other, to get there?

And I could really empathize with Marine and Kate. We can feel their pain, their ambitions, and their doubts all rolled into one. What’s even more wonderful is that we get to witness their friendship from both angles, to see their missed glances from both view points. We are allowed a glimpse into whether they can find their own path amongst all the misdirection, dangers, and traps.


There’s so much to appreciate in Bright Burning Stars because even if you can’t relate to a similar experience, you can feel these tender and yearning girls struggling to find their own way. To navigate among all these expectations and external forces to figure out what they truly want.

Find Bright Burning Stars on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.

About the Author

A.K. Small was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.


Do you have any other YA ballet recommendations?

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2 thoughts on “Blog Tour: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

  1. This book sounds powerful, with excellent characters and premise. I love the idea of learning what these girls are willing to do/not do to succeed. What is the true meaning of success? I believe that question is personal for everyone.

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