Bright Burning Stars

Algonquin. May 2019. 304p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781616208783.
Gr 9 Up–French-born Marine and All-American girl Kate, known as the “petites-rats” at Paris’s most prestigious ballet school, have been best friends since they started their training, encouraging and supporting each other through thick and thin. Both are ambitious: Marine, overwhelmed by guilt from her twin brother Oli’s untimely death, strives for the career Oli had wanted, while Kate, still suffering from her mother’s disappearance when Kate was only five, is determined to become a success at any cost. When her one-night affair with Cyrille, the “Demigod,” leaves her pregnant, however, she closes herself off from Marine and seems to lose her sense of self. Only when Marine has a breakdown of her own do the two realize the importance of reinstating their friendship. Middle-school and beginning-high-school dance aficionados will revel in the girls’ all-consuming world of classical ballet—the protocol, the intensity, even the “Mean Girls”-esque competitive backbiting. While some of the adult characters seem rather two-dimensional, the protagonists—whose points of view are told in alternating chapters—are believable in their thoughts, dialogue, and actions. Kate’s abortion is handled very matter-of-factly.
VERDICT While the well-paced prose clarifies some French phrases, a knowledge of ballet vocabulary is largely presumed. This is a story filled with interesting plot twists sure to maintain a high level of interest for readers.

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