“This is my year. This is my turn.
I’ll be the lead soloist. I’ll be chosen for the company. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
In Shiny Broken Pieces, it’s the start of final year at the American Ballet Conservatory. That means the students are ready for more backstabbing, dirty tricks and occasionally rehearsing (though that mostly takes a back seat – convoluted schemes are a bigger priority). With company auditions looming, the stakes are higher than ever for legacy dancer Bette, outsider June and free-spirit Gigi.
The previous instalment in this series, Tiny Pretty Things, was a fast-paced, trashy but oh so addictive read, and its sequel is very much more of the same. The events of the last book sent shock waves through the school, meaning the atmosphere is charged with suspicion and paranoia from the get go. Bette remains my favourite character, partly because she’s often the most down-to-earth and clear-sighted, despite her astonishingly privileged background. Perhaps, as well, it’s because her desire for success is based so much in her need to be loved and to distinguish herself from her talented older sister.
The power dynamics are totally different to the first instalment: rather than Gigi being the new girl and Bette the school’s Queen Bee, Bette is having to claw her way back after being suspended.
It’s astonishing how much plot Shiny Broken Pieces manages to fit into a relatively short novel. It tackles a lot of issues with conviction, including toxic friendships, eating disorders, racist microaggressions and teacher-student relationships. Almost inevitably, some of the many subplots don’t get developed to their fullest, but it was a particular shame that Henri and Bette’s dark sexual chemistry is almost forgotten about in this book, and June’s boyfriends seems to fade gradually from the story.
Perhaps the ending ties up the girls’ stories a little too neatly, finishing on an overly shiny and positive note considering the atmosphere of ruthlessness and desperation. However, I’ve loved following the triumphs and failures of these three aspiring dancers, and I look forward to reading more pacy, diverse novels by Charaipoitra and Clayton in the future.
Yours on pointe,
“Tiny Pretty Things” was featured in my ‘Favourite Books of 2015’