Is This Ballet or Game of Thrones?

tiny-pretty-thingsIs there anything better in all the universe than a book that surprises you?

So here’s the confession part. I don’t get ballet. It’s lovely, but more than five minutes puts me to sleep. You want me to run screaming from the room? Start playing the music from THE NUTCRACKER. I didn’t dream of being a ballerina when I was little. I wanted to be the first woman to play in Major League Baseball. Everything I’ve ever heard about the ballet world–the tyrannical teachers, the eating disorders, the injuries–just doesn’t makes any dang sense to me. And teenagers? Ugh. The best part about my teen years is that they’re over. I do love me some YA, but it’s usually of the Katniss Everdeen variety. I just couldn’t imagine that a book about teenage ballerinas was ever going to interest me. That is until I read TINY PRETTY THINGS.

Y’all, this book floored me. I read it in two days. Then I gave it to my husband and he couldn’t put it down. It’s like THE SOPRANOS in tutus. Seriously. These girls are a wonder. They are complex and weird (in the good way) and angry and vulnerable and smart and evil and sweet all at once. If you think ballet is boring, I dare you to read TINY PRETTY THINGS because these little ballerinas will reach out and grab you buy your throat and demand you pay attention.

I love books that make me, as a friend of mine puts it, unplug from the Matrix. In other words, I love books that make me realize my own biases to think of the world a certain way. If you’d said the word “ballerina” to me a few days ago, I’d have pictured a pretty little blonde stick figure of a girl. Now, after reading TINY PRETTY THINGS, this is what I think of….

A novel is good when you understand characters you have nothing in common with. That was my experience with TINY PRETTY THING. I just didn’t get what it was about ballet that would drive dancers to such extremes. Now I get it. I understand what makes these girls burn for the ballet. Bette desires power. Gigi wants the joy. June craves control. It’s all so human and complex. And these girls play for keeps. I loved it. GAME OF THRONES has nothing on TINY PRETTY THINGS.

The last thing I’ll say about TINY PRETTY THINGS is that it feels so intimate. The story takes place in the cloistered dormitories and studios of a ballet school where everyone is left with scraps of privacy. But they make the most of it. And what happens between two people on a dance floor is always intimate.

So trust me. If you like ballet, you’ll love TINY PRETTY THINGS. And if you don’t, TINY PRETTY THINGS will make ballet awesome. After I finished TINY PRETTY THINGS I spend way too much time on YouTube checking out ballet videos and you will too.

 

 

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Shelly is the author of THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING, story of love and books in Silicon Valley. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband, two big dogs, and a disapproving cat.

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  1. “Is there anything better in all the universe than a book that surprises you?”

    I read all these blog posts about knowing your genre, knowing the rules of your genre, etc. — but what a boring literature we would have if everybody actually followed those rules.

    One of my favorite mystery novels turns out, in the final few pages, to be a horror novel instead. I’m sure there’s a rule about that.

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