Author : Ashley Herring Blake
Published By : HMH Books For Young Readers
Year Published : 2018
Genre / Tags : Contemporary, YA, Realistic Fiction, LG(B)TQIA, Coming Of Age
Mood : Sad yet hopeful
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 295 pages (Hardcover)
Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.
First, a little note, I buddy read this book with Dana from Devour Books With Dana. We had a great time and discussed a lot of aspects of the novel! I definitely recommend checking out her blog.
This is one of those rare books wherein the major aspects of its plot are already quite revealed within the summary / blurb. That makes it easier to review since most of the things I want to talk about have everything to do with those interior plot elements. But if you want to go in blind, I kind of suggest doing so and would advise to stop reading after this next paragraph is through.
Girl Made Of Stars has some fantastic, largely top-tier writing among the selection of YA titles out there. I think it’s a good selection for people who might still be interested in YA but are tiring of bubbly or superficial plots. This one maintains the brisk pace of a typical YA novel, is pretty short, and easily approachable. But the topics are heavy and provide a lot of talking points. The perspective is closely focused, revealing the innermost thoughts of the main character. Difficult decisions and conflicts are conveyed in simple yet intense passages that really make you think about how everyone is effected and ponder how best to handle things.
The teenage protagonist, Mara, surrounds herself with friends who are mostly intelligent, sensitive, and warmly depicted. We get insightful looks into their reactions and how they are handling the situation that is central to this novel. That situation being- Mara’s twin brother, Owen, is accused of raping his girlfriend, Hannah. The three of them and their extended group of friends have been close and their bond is suddenly torn apart by the accusation.
Everyone expects Mara will take her twin’s side. Even Mara’s seemingly feminist journalist mother doesn’t believe Hannah. Owen is popular and has long been a nurturing and good force in Mara’s life. But Mara has her own troubling secrets that are bubbling tot he surface- and the decision of who to support is anything but simple.
While it would be very easy to bungle and badly handle this sort of plot, I think the author did a largely great job showing not only how Mara feels, how the people around her react, but also- and most importantly- how society and a very realistically depicted community reacts to these accusations. The greatest achievement of this book is in expressing why rape victims are statistically reluctant to come forward. There are some very compelling reasons why, and Hannah’s story skillfully conveys some of them. Comparing Hannah’s life before and after coming forward shows stark differences that are enlightening to witness.
Aside from that plot is Mara’s enduring friendship with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. The two still have a lot of tension under the surface of their interactions. Mara is bi, and while not over Charlie, does consider starting anew with Alex, a mutual friend. Like Mara, he is conflicted from recent events and slowly distancing himself from her twin, his best friend. The romantic entanglements weren’t the highlight of this novel for me, but do offer some diversions and changing tones. Mara’s sense of longing and regret where her relationship with Charlie was concerned was palpable.
There were some things that happen toward the end that I had more mixed feelings about. In efforts to keep this review spoiler-free I’ll just say that this book was 85% fantastic and consistent and 15% had me strongly questioning certain actions of characters or handling of situations. There are just things I would have done differently or liked to have seen done differently.
Just as an aside, though I don’t consider it a major criticism or anything- the adults of this book were by-and-large terrible. There are only a few of them and I do think a sort of generational gap within a close-minded small town setting may do well in explaining why it’s not unrealistic for them to be the way they are. But still- I happened to hate literally all of them.
I added Coming Of Age as a category. For me, it’s a genre, and I often enjoy it. Girl Made Of Stars has a particularly poignant moment, toward the end, that artistically depicts Mara’s shifting from teenager to adult, letting go of a romanticized naivete of her girlhood.
There is an author’s note after the acknowledgements, conveying the author’s intent to tell a story that should inspire anger and action for injustices, yet also show that there is hope the future, and growth within kinship and connecting through shared traumas. The moments between Mara and Hannah were striking and often beautifully-written, and did well in conveying these most important messages.
Overall Rating – 8.5/10
Why You Should Try It – A YA novel of substance. Complicated decisions and relationships are conveyed simply yet offer a lot to think about. The writing is often lovely and quotable. The characters are vividly realized.
Why You Might Not Like It – While I think this book is fast-paced, I don’t think everyone will feel that way. There is a sort of quiet, thoughtful atmosphere within several sections that might not be everyone’s cup of tea.Girl Made of Stars (Amazon Link)
Have you read Girl Made Of Stars or are you interested in reading it? I hope my review has been helpful, and I welcome your comments/questions/thoughts at any time. As always-