Tag: Sona Charaipotra

Shiny Broken Pieces (Tiny Pretty Things #2)

Cover image for Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Claytonby Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

ISBN 978-0-06-234242-3

“Sometimes you want something so badly you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it.”

After surviving brutal bullying and hazing, both Cassie Lucas and Gigi Stewart are back at the American Ballet Conservatory for their final year, struggling to prove they still have what it takes after healing from their injuries. Unable to prove that she wasn’t the one who pushed Gigi in front of a taxi, Bette Abney is still suspended, and neither her former best friend, Eleanor, nor her ex-boyfriend Alec, are speaking to her. After finally landing a breakout role in Giselle, June Kim is poised for her best year yet, determined to land one of the American Ballet Company’s coveted apprenticeships. But her falling weight and unusual eating habits are bringing her under increased scrutiny, straining her relationship with her mother, and her boyfriend Jayhe. Now the upperclassman have a choice: focus on their dreams, or pursue revenge.

Gigi Stewart, for one, has set her heart on revenge. After all, she could have died. And with the return of Cassie Lucas, the last girl who was terribly injured by Bette’s machinations, she has an unexpected ally. In Tiny Pretty Things, Cassie was the spectre that hung over Gigi’s hazing, spoken of in horrified whispers. In Shiny Broken Pieces, she finally comes fully on-stage, no longer a talismanic victim, but a new bitter, angry rival, hungry for revenge and determined to prove herself. Though she rarely carries the POV, her presence eggs Gigi on. Even as the Conservatory tries to start fresh, new pranks and anonymous bullying pile fuel on the flames. And since the incidents never take place in the POV of the perpetrator, there is and added element of mystery and suspense.

In many ways, Shiny Broken Pieces is a book about role reversals. Once the sunny, laid-back new girl from California, Gigi has been embittered by her experiences. Meanwhile, Bette, always used to being a star and the darling of the Conservatory, is on the outs, suspended from school indefinitely. She is guilty of a lot, but determined to prove that whatever her past, she was not responsible for Gigi’s near-death experience. Meanwhile, June has gained bigger roles and more attention, but it hasn’t fixed her eating disorder, or her non-relationship with her father, or helped her decide between pursuing a ballet career and going to college with Jayhe. Her role at the Conservatory may have changed, but she is still the same person, with a dark secret or two weighing on her conscience. Together the three girls form a horrifying and yet strangely sympathetic cast.

Shiny Broken Pieces is full of blackmail, drama, and deep, dark, twisty secrets. The competition is fierce, and with only two apprenticeships on offer, it is about to go to a whole new level. In this respect, it is very much of a piece with Tiny Pretty Things, but with even higher stakes. Lives and careers are on the line.

Tiny Pretty Things

Cover image for Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

ISBN 978-0-06-234239-3

“The Sugar Plum Fairy has the farthest to fall.”

Gigi Stewart is the new girl at an elite ballet academy in New York City. She comes from a laid-back California dance studio, and isn’t prepared for the intense competition and catty backstabbing amongst the New York dancers. To make matters worse, Gigi has a secret, one she is determined not to let her classmates use against her—it’s bad enough being the only black girl at the conservatory without everyone knowing her medical history. Two long-time dancers at the school are Bette Abney and June Kim, both of whom are legacy students. Bette is fighting to get out from under her sister’s shadow, bringing out a ruthless competitiveness that has already cost her one of her oldest friends, and she may still lose her boyfriend if he ever finds out what she did. June is a half-Asian student who doesn’t fit in anywhere since she was rejected by the other Korean girls. June has always been an understudy, and now her mother is threatening to take her out of the academy so she can focus on preparing for college—unless she can land a starring role. The competition is about to go from fierce, to brutal. Hanging over it all is the spectre of Cassie Lucas, the last girl who was driven out of the school by bullying.

The prologue focuses on Cassie Lucas, and the final, defining moment that pushed her from the school, driven out by students who couldn’t accept that a newer, younger dancer might take a starring role. After that, the perspective rotates between Gigi, Bette, and June. By using three perspectives, Charaipotra and Clayton are free to explore a variety of issues that might plague an aspiring ballerina, from familial pressures, to anorexia, to recurring injuries. What would be overwhelming if laid on the shoulders of one character can be distributed among them to better effect. It also helps round out the characters; from the outside, Bette seems cold and calculating, but there is turmoil beneath the surface that makes her more than simply a villain. There is plenty soapy drama here, but also some depth, as the girls struggle with identity, and what it may cost to realize their dreams.

I picked up this book thinking it was a stand-alone volume, and as such I had some problems with the structure and pacing.  As the end nears, we still don’t know everything about who is responsible for the various attacks on Gigi, despite some fairly strong suspicions. The repeated references to Cassie seem somewhat ineffective, since we know very little about her before she vanishes from the scene. However, knowing that there is a follow-up volume changes the perspective on these structural choices. There is space now for Cassie to re-enter the picture, as well as more time for the truth to come out. And there is still room to raise the stakes—after fighting tooth and nail for roles in The Nutcracker, and Giselle, next the girls will be competing not for roles, but for spots in professional ballet companies.

However, knowing there is a sequel doesn’t relieve all of the problems in Tiny Pretty Things. I was looking to the romance in the book to provide a bit of relief from the constant drama and competition, but the relationships are just as fraught as the dancing. June becomes involved with her former best friend’s boyfriend, and since he won’t break up with Sei-Jin, they have to keep their involvement a secret. Meanwhile, Alec shifts his affections from Bette to Gigi with a suddenness that would suggest he only cares about being the boyfriend of the lead dancer—even though this isn’t otherwise in line with is character. Meanwhile, Bette is being harassed by Henri, Cassie Lucas’s former boyfriend and dance partner, who seems to have come to New York from his Paris school for the sole purpose of finding out what really happened to Cassie. However, his intensity is much more creepy than romantic. This read is dark all around, and could use a little light, but the romance isn’t it.

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