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.
From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Belles, Dhonielle Clayton, and the author of the highly anticipated Symptoms of a Heartbreak, Sona Charaipotra.
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.
What is Tiny Pretty Things about?
Tiny Pretty Things is about a group of young ballerinas, and focusing heavily on Gigi, Bette, and June. All three girls are vying for the same spots: the lead roles of The Sugarplum Fairy and Giselle in the two ballets the school will put on that year. And in each ballet, Gigi receives the lead role, June is her understudy, and Bette is shunted off to the side. The competition grows fierce, the pressure intense, and each girl is hiding secrets that could ruin her chances at dancing in the company when she graduates.
Genre: YA Thriller
This book is largely presented in the thriller genre. While there are a lot of forays into the personal feelings and struggles of each of the main girls, the writing style is distinctively thriller and recognizable in the way it cuts just as action is taken and casts such a shadow over who might be doing what to Gigi.
Tropes: Killer Ballerinas
The big thing going on this book is how competitive the teenage ballerinas are. They acknowledge that everything they’re doing is bullying but also that it’s required and necessary to move forward in the company in the future.
Plot: The Competition is Everything
It’s almost sad how everything for these girls takes a backseat to ballet. Relationships matter, but in the end dancing matters more, and the girls very much push themselves and each other to the brink of exhaustion and don’t seem to be enjoying what they’re doing.
I like that we get different types of people through the different perspectives. Different personalities, but all still competitive and dance obsessed. It was nice that each girl was written so distinctly. I also enjoyed the additional layers to their personalities. As each ballerina seems to have some massive secret she’s holding onto, it leads to a lot of interesting personal drama. I found June’s chapters the most complex and interesting overall, as she has a lot more going on and at seemingly higher stakes.
I found that I didn’t care about Gigi’s relationship and romance storyline. While Gigi was a great character overall, her whole romance seemed offputting for some reason. I also did not care for Henri’s character at all. I understand that at least some of his purpose is to be a little frightening, as he’s trying for intimidation tactics, but he just seemed overall creepy.
This book needs to come with a major content warning for a few different triggers. Eating disorders are a huge part of the story, as one of the main POVs has one and within the world of ballet weight loss and maintenance is a big deal. There’s also themes of child abuse in Bette’s chapters, some scenes more explicit than others. I can’t wholly say if all of these things were handled well, as some scenes seemed to be framed in a sympathetic but warning way and other scenes toss around these topics like toys.
I think as a thriller, this book works. It’s strong on the mystery themes and the “whodunnit” is great. By flashing between perspectives from the victim of most of the bullying, and two of the potential suspects, you get a lot more mystery surprisingly. Because there are multiple characters with motives, and at least three characters who admit to actually perpetrating some of the acts, there’s a lot of questions left unanswered at the end. I found that the weakest parts of the books were the ones trying to deal with the sensitive issues faced by the girls. Gigi’s were handled with the most tact and sympathy I would say, whereas Bette and June seem to just constantly be beaten down. There was something to be desired for getting more resolution for these characters, and for the handling of some of the subjects touched on in the book.