June, Bette, and Gigi have given their all to dance at Manhattan’s most elite ballet school. Now they are competing one final time for a spot at the prestigious American Ballet Company. With the stakes higher than ever, these girls have everything to lose–and no one is playing nice … After years of gruelling auditions, torn ribbons, and broken hearts, it all comes down to this last dance. Who will make the cut? And who will lose her dream forever? — [X]
I am in denial that August is a thing, so please just let me pretend it’s still Performance Arts month here on The Book Wars? After all, Shiny Broken Pieces is the real reason I talked the others into a whole month about song, dance, and drama.
Now, if you’ve been with us since last November, you know how much I loved Tiny Pretty Things. I talked about it being a “pushy” book, not only in the sense that there were moments that pushed you deeper into the book, but also in the sense that there were moments that pushed you to examine characters and their choices more carefully. It’s no mean feat, I feel, especially as someone who reads a lot of fantasy/adventure YA that is typically (not always, okay) plot-driven. Shiny Broken Pieces maintains that “pushy”-ness, for lack of a better word, but also gains a new kind of urgency: it’s Gigi and company’s last shot at the American Ballet Company and that means tensions are at an all-time high. Plus, an old student is back in town and she has her own stories and her own agenda.
The events of the last book–all the bullying and abuse–have taken their toll on the three main characters in different ways. Gigi, who had been hospitalized at the end of the last book, is determined to get her revenge. Bette who has been accused of a crime she did not commit is attempting to make amends, while investigating her own list of suspects. June, who had been taking advantage of Gigi’s trust to psychologically damage her (though perhaps not exactly with that intent), is also attempting to focus on herself rather than tearing down others. For all of them it’s a struggle, and the jagged edges of old relationships makes healing all the more difficult:
For a second, I wish I had really hurt Sei-Jin when I pushed her down those stairs last year. But I think about how differently I wanted this year to go. I have to be bigger than this. My mom was a dancer. My nonfather was a dancer. I am meant to be one. — (85)
My favourite thing about this book was how all of the characters develop in surprising ways–not because their choices seem unlike them, but simply because the first book has you expecting them to make different decisions. To see Gigi, Bette, and June make the choices that they do and still be convinced of their respective Gigi-ness, Bette-ness, and June-ness is difficult to pull off, but Charaipotra and Clayton do so with seeming ease and finesse.
Of course, with all the focus on the ballerinas’ battles, you would think that the ballet itself would be forgotten, but I promise that it is as alluring a subject as it was in the first book. Charaipotra and Clayton write the dance beautifully. That said, in the authors’ careful descriptions of ballet, they do not ignore its uglier side, the way ballet takes a toll on the girls, demanding that they love the dance over themselves. Sometimes, this demanding love takes the form of bulimia and sometimes it is evident in casual, racial microaggressions:
“Very hard, you know”–she pulls at the fabric–“to match you girls’ legs. Color is too dark for the white. You can see through it. It’s no good.”
I gulp. I wonder if the way she uses the word girls refers to black girls and not all girls in general. — (271)
And then there are the problems that aren’t specific to ballet, such as homophobia faced by a student in his own home, and the slut-shaming faced by a victim of abuse. Both are only lightly touched on, but it does make quite an impact–on the surrounding characters, at least, if not the perpetrators:
“Why am I the slut? He’s done this a dozen times! Why am I the one to blame?” — (329)
Now, Goodreads Q&A says that “at this time” Shiny Broken Pieces is the second and last book in this series. I can see there being value in a third book, if only to see two certain characters burn in the pits of hell *cough-not-the-girls-cough*, but this book does end at a rather interesting and satisfying moment. It isn’t a cliffhanger exactly, but it makes you read into the last few lines in a dizzying number of ways, making the ending as interesting as all the other pages in the book. Shiny Broken Pieces is every bit as smart and thrilling as you would expect from the sequel of Tiny Little Things and then some. Recommended!