A.K. Small is a wonderful storyteller. She documents with love and understanding a world most people do not know and fills it with complex challenging characters. The world is the Paris Opera Ballet School in Nanterre, a school for 9 to 17-year-old girls and boys.
Why do you remember the characters, young girls of 17? They are competing for a place in the Paris Opera Ballet. They might die for it. They might kill for it. A.K. Small shows the reader what it is like to put such an inordinate amount of pressure on girls who have known nothing but ballet since they were 7. How do they retain the norms of civilization, or society in such a world. The characters and story transcend their ages and setting and ask questions that are often asked about the larger world.
French phrases and ballet terms, unknown to the neophyte, are used in a way and explained in a way that deepens the narrative.
A.K. Small leaves the reader with an understanding of the price of the ineffable beauty we see on the stage and a greater appreciation for it.