Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 15, 2018
"I need Owen to explain this. Because yes, I do know that Owen would never do that, but I also know Hannah would never lie about something like that."
Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara's friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn't know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn't help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend and best friend since childhood, Charlie.
As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.
It took me until now to write this review, largely because if you’d asked me before now what my feelings were on Girl Made of Stars, I would just exhale and make a noise that sounded like “oooooof.” If a book could be a sucker punch straight to your gut, this one is it. I’ve been processing this one for a while now, turning it over in my head, but I think I’m finally ready to attempt to do this beautiful, beautiful book justice.
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
Girl Made of Stars is about a pair of twins – Mara and Owen. It is also about Mara’s best-friend-but-also-girlfriend-but-also-ex-girlfriend, Charlie, and Owen’s best friend Alex. It is about Owen’s girlfriend, one of Mara and Charlie’s good friends, a beautiful girl named Hannah. It is about all of these people, and yet it is also simply about the stars.
Mara and Owen are as close as possible – sharing that twin bond we read about and hear tales of, always looking skyward, raised on stories of celestial bodies in the sky and dreams of candy fluff clouds. Now that they’re looking toward college and getting older, however, they’re starting to pull apart at the seams ever so slightly. Mara has come out as bisexual to her family, and has recently broken up with Charlie, who is her best friend in the world – the relationship had to end by lack of other options, and Mara is angry and alone when she sees Charlie at a party with some other girl so soon after their split. Did she mean nothing to her? Irritated, Alex sees Mara and offers her a ride home – since Owen has gotten into the hunch punch a little too much and has run off with Hannah to make out in the woods somewhere, she agrees.
But the next day after school, something is wrong. Her parents and Owen are curled into the sofa, crying. Hannah, they tell her, has accused Owen of rape, and will be attempting to pursue pressed charges. Suddenly, Mara’s world turns upside down.
There is so much to unpack here. Who does Mara believe? Her good friend who she can’t possibly see lying, or her brother who swears up and down there was no sexual assault. Mara has struggles all her own, too – she has a past experience that keeps her from getting as close to people as she’d like, and on top of that Charlie is experiencing severe gender dysphoria – she feels like a girl sometimes, but sometimes a boy, and she is too afraid to tell her family. Charlie’s struggles as she comes to realize she is genderfluid mixed with Mara reconciling her past and the Owen vs. Hannah debacle really puts the heat on Mara, and you feel it yourself – it flames across your face, you rejoice with her victories and shed a tear at her sorrows. Each character is bright and vivid, painted with bold strokes right on your screen. They want to be seen, and make no mistake, you will see them.
The Bottom Line
I can’t think of a single person who shouldn’t read this book. Parents of teens, teenagers, “new” adults, teachers, guidance counselors … everyone needs to pick this up and give it a read. It’s on the shorter side – under 300 pages – but each word feels like it is beating a pulse beneath your fingertips. Blake has done what is largely impossible: she’s given these words a soul, and spoken life into a fictional girl. But Mara is not simply fiction – she is in all of us, so is Charlie, and Hannah, and yes, even Owen and Alex. We are all the girl made of stars, and we are all trying to navigate our way through the milky night sky.
“Some parts of me are gone. Some others have come alive, woken by the need to fight, to matter, to be heard. Some parts are wary, others angry, others heartbroken. But I’m still me. I’m still moving.”