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.
Confronting difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault, Girl Made of Stars is a timely, emotionally gripping novel that shines a light on the story of a survivor with sensitivity and hope.Amazon
This is my SPOILER FREE book review for Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
I intend to use the ***ASPECT method for my discussion and will not spoil the ending.
I’m just going to jump right to…
Entertaining (what tends to be my wrap up final thoughts)
This is a YA book about sexual trauma, the patriarchy, the blind spots we all have, and the choice to still love someone after they do an unforgivable thing. This book tackles really important issues but it suffers from the YA tropes that it is forced to utilize: over dramatics, stilted conversations, absent parents, stock teen characters (the quirkiness of hanging out in a graveyard, the sensitive boy who will be part of the love triangle, the love triangle itself, the impactful watershed moments that are undermined by being almost too prevalent, everyone clocking the super subtle nuances of everyone else’s face or wrists or eye twitches…) But that is not to say that it isn’t a good book or that it isn’t worth reading. Because what it lacks in-depth, it more than makes up for it by raising the issues of sexual assault in highly believable ways and not shying away front the reality of how such things are dealt with, and not dealt with, in our society.
YA, “southern” local without actually being overly southern. It is a high school book with surprisingly no slang. There are a few text messages but overall these kids don’t seem to really do the social media thing. The tone is pretty set by the back of the book blurb. We all know what is going to happen and thankfully it doesn’t take too long to get there. There isn’t much in the way of tension. It is more of an introspective book than an action-driven story.
Note about triggers: While the descriptions of sexual assault are not graphic, they are understandably highly emotionally charged and are written in a very straightforward manner.
Look, I am not a teenager. It has been a long time since I was a teenager. Is this how teenagers talk, write, experience the world? Hell if I know. It *felt* cliche and very CW to me… but I honestly don’t know if that is just because I am an “olds” and so very very out of touch. Some of these high school seniors seemed to have vastly older emotional intelligence scores.
That being said, there are some really pretty passages and some very lovely descriptive language… it didn’t seem authentic, but it was nice to read.
You already know the basic plot. This is more a story of the aftermath and it only spans a few weeks at most in terms of time. Which… might be one of its failings. Things don’t always have to move quickly. I know that even that is a staple of YA fiction: the compression of BIG things, emotions, and events into a school year or a weekend trip… but some of these things deserved to have more breathing room.
There is an unexpected turn that Blake pulls off fairly well. The breadcrumbs she drops are enough to foreshadow if you know what to look for (or have had similar experiences) but the reveal might be a surprise to the more innocent readers.
I do feel the plot was rushed a bit and the resolution seemed to not quite fit. I appreciate that not everything was tied up with a bow, but I felt significantly let down in terms of what we were not shown.
I already talked about my misgivings about the teenagers in this book in terms of the writing, but let me take a moment to applaud some of the characters. Representation matters and I love that we have an opening bi protagonist who has both an accepting family and still hears some of the disgusting vitriol that gets tossed at bi people. I love that we have a character who is coming to terms with their gender identity and exploring what it means to be nonbinary. That struggle of what to wear, how to act, what does it mean, felt real even if we didn’t get super deep into it. There is also the discussion of how people deal with trauma, especially sexual assault, and the book goes out of its way to tell and show us that there is no right or wrong way to react to that violation.
Would I recommend it?
There are YA books that are worth reading even as an “olds.” This one…. Eh. I feel like if you are older, a bit worldly, have lived any sort of life and seen any sort of news or SVU episode or read anyone of any number of books… this book will not really teach you anything or provide any sort of new experience. (I definitely fall into that category and while I was fine spending my time with this book, I was mostly fine because it was short and I am in a bit of a time crunch this week.)
However, if you are a younger reader or you have not encountered many sexual assault stories, this book might be profoundly impactful. I can see a younger, more innocent, audience really resonating with the characters and really feeling the big YA emotions that this book is highlighting.
Why THIS book?
I can’t remember why or where I got this book. Like I said above, I was a bit crunched for time this week and wanted a faster read. A quick survey of my shelf got me to this book and here we are.
Also, apparently, I need to invest in better lipstick that won’t transfer to my coffee mugs!
*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?
T This? Why did I read *This* book?