Book Talk: Tiny Pretty Things8:30:00 PM
We've got to talk about this book cover. It drew me in like a moth to a flame - it's beautiful from afar, but even more striking up close, and in that sense the cover reflects my feelings about the novel itself. I first saw Tiny Pretty Things on tumblr and liked the cover so much I took a screenshot to look up later. As much as I'd like to pretend I'm above judging a book by it's cover, I'm not. What can I say, I'm a sucker for packaging. As for this one in particular, I think it's safe to say that I like this book just as much on the inside as I do on the outside. Tiny Pretty Things felt like a breath of fresh air because it's premise was so different from the other YA books I've read recently.
If you had told me going in that this novel was about a cutthroat NY ballet academy, I probably would have told you that that's a bit outside my realm of experience. It didn't matter - I was immediately drawn in by the intensity of this world. It was in some ways unsurprising: about as catty as you would imagine a bunch of teenage ballerinas to be, but I was also surprised by the depth of emotion to be found within these pages.
The story is told from the POV of three ballerinas: Bette: the queen bee, June: the eternal understudy, and Gigi: the sweet but skilled dancer who keeps everyone on their toes. Each of the girls has different a different background, different skills, and different motivations, but they share one thing - their desire to achieve prima ballerina in the school's performance, and, ultimately, a position as principal dancer at the conservatory.
The development of the plot is achieved through these alternating points of view, and is reminiscent of crime procedurals where each witness tells their version of events, and the audience gets to piece together the bits they think are true. It's engrossing, and if there's anything that will keep me coming back, it's an unreliable narrator...or three! Bette, June, and Gigi each bring something different to the table, and I think it's a testament to the co-authoring of this novel by Sona Charipotra and Dhonielle Clayton that each of the girls remains their own person - there's was never a time when I was reading a chapter and felt one character's POV bleeding in to another.
I loved the diversity shown in this novel - it's easy to imagine a scenario where each of the girls are just like Bette, but I'm glad they didn't go that route! Seeing the familial and cultural differences that affected the girls added dimension to the story that wouldn't have been there otherwise, and it was refreshing to see the girls address their differences and struggles as persons of color in a largely whitewashed industry.
I sometimes found my patience growing short in regards characterization: Bette's "I'm a terrible person because I have a tragic past" excuse only lasts so long, and in a character as smart as she is, you'd think she'd have maturity to get past her petty behavior. Gigi comes across as very naive, and doesn't change much in that regard, which was a little frustrating. And then there's June, who spends her time feeling entitled to the parts she never gets. While Bette and Gigi work hard to get the parts they want, June does what she's always done, and then sulks when no one notices her. I felt like each of the girls fell into a stereotypical category: mean girl, wallflower, good girl, and in this regard the book kind of fell flat for me.
There really wasn't a character that I liked, which actually wasn't a deal breaker for me. Each character has secrets and lies and manipulates the others, and while I definitely got a Gossip Girl-esque vibe when reading this book, what kept me reading wasn't the characters, but curiosity. The more events unfolded, the more questions I had, and the less I trusted each of the characters. As I tried to anticipate what would happen next, I drew a blank - something that rarely happens to me (a pesky byproduct of reading too much and watching too much TV). By the time I reached the conclusion, I had more questions than I did answers. If this was done with the intention of continuing the story with a second novel, I'll be in line to read it, in spite of my qualms, but I'm not sure it exists just yet.
I haven't read any reviews of Tiny Pretty Things yet, so I'm not sure how other people have reacted to the book, but I'm eager to find out, especially given the ending. While I think I would have had more of an appreciation for all the details if I had literally any dance experience to speak of, I was still able to enjoy this book as a newcomer. I think dance and mystery lovers alike will gravitate to this book, and hopefully they, like me, will encourage the authors to get started on book number two, if they haven't already (no word on that, as of yet). I'd prefer if there was a sequel - I demand answers! - but without any official word, the authors could very well be setting readers up for an "I guess we'll never know," situation, which would be infinitely more frustrating!
Have you read Tiny Pretty Things yet? Do you think the authors will write a conclusion for Bette, June, and Gigi? Let me know down below!