Title: Girl Made of Stars
Author: Ashley Herring Blake
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Released: May 15, 2018
Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault, rape, pedophilia, panic attacks, victim blaming
Representation: Bisexual, sapphic, non-binary, Korean-American, Anxiety
Synopsis*: 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.
Girl Made of Stars left me in pieces, not unlike stardust.
“Once upon a time,” Mom said, “a brother and a sister lived with the stars. They were happy and had wild adventures exploring the sky . . .”
I don’t know if I have it in me to do this book justice. But I’ll try.
Girl Made of Stars follows Mara as her friend Hannah accuses Mara’s twin brother of rape. Mara must discover the truth of what happened that night at the party while remembering what happened in a classroom years ago.
This book is gut-wrenching. I felt sick reading it, and honestly, that might be the highest compliment I can pay a book like this.
And hey, that’s more than a lot of kids get, especially in the South, where going out in public as a queer person can be like tiptoeing through a minefield.
This book was little but fierce.
It gave us a bisexual main character who has anxiety and panic attacks, a Korean-American love interest and a non-binary love interest.
Yes, that’s right. There’s a love triangle except it never feels like a love triangle. It just feels like three people hurting and trying to navigate their pain in a time when their worlds have been turned inside out.
I related to Mara feeling like she wasn’t good enough to be in a relationship with Charlie.
I understood Charlie’s difficulty navigating their own gender and not being totally sure of anything but that the way people have seen them their whole lives isn’t right.
And Alex, my sweet Alex. Honestly he’s the only guy a trust in and out of fiction right now. He just is a great representation of what guys should do when their friend is accused of rape, that you should question them, you should question your relationship with them. He’s patient and kind with Mara but more than anything, he’s trying to come to terms with seeing the world and the people in it, the person closest to him in a new light.
During the book, these three hurt each other in their journey to understanding each other and themselves and it’s so very real. Their relationships are beyond realistic, and maybe one of the most realistic portrayals of relationships I’ve seen in YA.
I can’t even reach that far to snap it on. The quiet rings through me, bringing up memories.
A specific memory. The day a certain girl dies and another was born.
Mara felt real. Hannah felt real. The world these girls have grown up in is a mirror of the world we live in.
Growing up my mother always taught me what to do when I got a bad feeling about a person.
Run. Scream. Hide. Fight.
She taught me that there are bad people out there that will want to hurt me and I need to learn how to protect myself if I have any chance of getting through life unscarred.
She wanted to prepare me, do everything in her power to ensure her baby girl wasn’t hurt.
I don’t remember her talking to my brother, making sure he understood not to hurt anyone. Maybe she did, probably she didn’t.
Girls have their innocence stolen the moment we’re told of what might happen to us when we’re taught what to do to stop those things from happening.
Losing that innocence, the feeling of safety, even just our own fucking bodily autonomy, is the price girls pay for living in a world where boys and men get to do bad things to them, often without consequence.
“Once upon a time,” he says, and my breath stutters in my lungs. I don’t say anything and he goes on, his voice a cracked whisper. “Once upon a time, a brother and a sister lived with the stars. They were happy and had wild adventures exploring the sky. One day—”
“One day the brother broke his sister’s heart.”
Owen also felt so real and it hurt. It was painful to read. He felt like he could be any guy in my life who I think I should trust, but never really do, because I don’t think I will ever truly trust a man.
I know too much. I know what they can be capable of. I know what they laugh and joke about. I know what they think. I know the kinds of media they consume. I know what they fantasize about. When you know so much it’s hard to trust anyone.
Owen was portrayed so well, we’re shown why Mara loves him so much. Not just because he’s her brother, but because he’s her other half. The person she should know inside out only to discover she doesn’t really know him at all. That discovering this also shows her she might not know anyone on her family as well as she thought.
Her face flushes red. “That is not what I meant and you know it. This is too far. That skirt is inappropriate, and violence in any form and for any reason is unacceptable.”
My teeth clench, the words I need to say fighting against me to get out. I hate those words—fear them, even—but they’re strong and furious, shoving themselves from my mouth. “I think you’re talking to the wrong twin.”
This book is filled with so many different emotions but the two I connected with the most were anger and grief.
Mara is angry, furious.
She’s angry that the only one who seems to be punished here is Hannah. She’s angry that he mother, her classmates, are all Team Owen. She’s angry that she didn’t feel safe to come forward with her own experience. She’s angry that she lives in a world where victims aren’t believed and perpetrators walk around like Gods, untouchable.
But more than all of that, Mara is grieving.
She’s grieving for Hannah, for her relationship with Charlie, for the idea she had of who her parents were and what they stood for, but mostly she’s grieving for what was done to her and for the person she thought her brother was. She’s grieving for the relationship, that up until now, she had with her twin.
The feelings that Mara had to grapple with when it came to Owen were so fucking real and it hurt to read, it felt like watching Mara bleed on the page because she essential was cutting herself in half, separating herself from her twin, the person she has spent her whole life beside. It was utterly heartbreaking to watch her go through that alone.
It’s changed me forever, but changed doesn’t have to mean broken. And I know my family will never be the same either.
This book will stay with anyone who reads it. It is exactly the kind of book the new generations need to read to learn from our mistakes. To do better. To ensure generations to come won’t make the same ones. At some point, we have to fucking break the cycle, and I have so much faith that we’re just starting to see the generation that is capable of doing that.
The new generation is strong, they are angry and they are fucking unstoppable.
This. This is why I never said anything.
Because no one ever believes the girl.
*Taken from Goodreads.
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I read this book as part of my 2018 Library Love binge, where I read as many library books as possible to take advantage of my great local library network!
To follow my binge reading adventure just visit my 2018 Library Love shelf.
Or I’ll also be updating my 2018 Library Love Blog Post as I go!
Have you read Girl Made of Stars?