“The best lies are layered in between solid truths.”
Wow, I cannot believe I am writing my 100th review. I have about 55 of them here on the blog, with the rest are on GoodReads. All of my reviews here can also be found on GR.
I chose a book that I read last year. I rated it 5 stars on GR — because it was in fact a PHENOMENAL book — but for whatever reason, I did not review it at the time.
I will apologize before hand, this review is kind of all over the place, as it’s really hard to separate each part out as I usually do. This is an especially sensitive topic, and incredibly close to home for me, specifically, as a survivor of sexual assault. With that said, bear with me and go forth!
This novel is entirely about sexual assault and the aftermath of it. If this is something that you feel you cannot handle in detail, please use caution and self love if you move forward. <3
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Author: Ashley Herring Blake
From GoodReads: 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.
the writing: ★★★★★
“Even girls made of stars are captives, bound at the wrists and traded like property.”
This book broke me, several times. If it wasn’t the stunningly quotable prose, it was the relatable and painful experiences the characters go through – making it hard not to gush about the writing that Blake delivers.
the plot: ★★★★★
“Even girls made of stars aren’t asked, aren’t believed, aren’t considered worth the effort unless they can offer something in return.”
The plot is pretty straight forward, and very heavy. The story follows Mara, in the aftermath of her best friend, Hannah, accusing her twin brother, Owen, of raping her. You know from the beginning what has happened and who the antagonist is right away. There is no mystery, except the one of who is telling the truth.
The issues tackled are painfully realistic; covering sexual assault (not just rape), victim blaming, sexuality shaming, gender identity and more. It’s not surprising that this would be hard-hitting and emotionally draining, but absolutely worth it. There are books that are emotionally draining and should never be read, and then there are books that suck everything out of you, but keep you coming back for more. Girl Made of Stars falls squaring into the latter category.
I’m going to discuss the character development aspect of the plot with the characters, as it’s easier for this book.
If you are looking for a plot driven book, you might want to look elsewhere. However, if you are looking for a well written, beautiful prose about characters who grow, change, develop and discover themselves – you need to pick this up ASAP.
the characters: ★★★★★
“Even girls made of stars buy into those lies sometimes.”
I truly connected with Mara. Her struggle with the knowledge of what has been accused and the brother she has known her entire life. She really doesn’t understand how they can both be true, independent of each other. Mara grieves for so many things during the course of this book, the loss of their relationship being the hardest loss for her.
In the midst of all of this, Mara is coping with her own trauma. Given in snippets and innuendos, Mara struggles to come to terms with her own experiences in sexual assault. She relives the feelings of betrayal, horror, and shame when the society that swore to protect you refuses to believe you. It’s the kind of shame that eats at you, makes you believe that you are less than.
Coupled with the devastating knowledge that the person she held closest to her could commit a similar atrocity, Mara spins out of control.
This hit home for me, especially. There is an unspoken hush that young people endure, to keep quiet about their experiences. To APOLOGIZE to those we accuse, because we couldn’t possibly be honest and trustworthy in the face of a mentor, a family member, a peer.
Hannah is the object of the books conflict. I felt nothing but pity and understanding for Hannah’s character. In one foul swoop, she lost her boyfriend and her best friend. The torture she endured, not being able to turn to the people she needed the most – not being able to stand up and claim her own story because of the actions of others.
Every. Single. Part. Of this book is heartbreaking and emotional. I mean, imagine the worst thing happening to you, and the one person you can confide in is on the side of the assailant. The type of damage that does to a person is almost irreversible – yet somehow, they manage to begin to mend themselves back together.
I don’t know if Hannah’s broken heart or Mara’s inability to reach out due to her family was more traumatic for me. You see two girls, suffering the same trauma, needing each other desperately, yet unable to connect.
I really want to say that Owen is your typical jackass of a douche, but he really isn’t. At times in the novel, you really feel for him – he is struggling with what happened just as much as the girls are. I found myself torn, much like Mara, because we KNOW he is the bad guy and he disgusts me, but it also explores how shattered his relationships with his twin, his best friend, and his parents are. Blake did an excellent job at diving into each and every character in this novel.
I’m pretty sure I hate(d) Mara’s parents for their role in overlooking it all. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
If there was ever a love interest that I was rooting for, it would be Charlie. Charlie is nonbinary, so while we can’t call this a f/f relationship, this is definitely a queer love interest. Mara does use the she/her pronouns, and Charlie does not object, but it is made clear that she is NOT a girl.
Charlie and Hannah have such an organic and real relationship that I found myself giddy when they were interacting. The love that Charlie has for Mara is almost palpable through the pages. The two suffered a break up, and though Charlie tries her hardest to be there for Mara, it is strained and awkward. The blossoming that happens for the two girls to come back to each other is poignant and beautiful. It gave me hope of healing where there once was nothing but a scar.
There is literally NOTHING – yes NOTHING- negative that I can say about this book. I read this book LAST YEAR and it still has stuck with me, specific details, feelings, the inherent shame. This is a novel that I believe every single human should read. It’s long past time to stop telling girls (and boys) to come forward, yet shunning them when they do.
Girl Made of Stars is eye opening and powerful, uncomfortable and heartbreaking – yet it stands the test of readers both young and old, resonating with each in an earth shattering way. It grabs you by your heart strings, and plucks them one by one until you are dangling with a single thread over an open water full of sharks waiting to devour. It brings home topics brushed under the rug and throws them into the spotlight, not allowing them to be ignored.
I guess what I’m trying to say is…
Get the book.
“We are worth the telling.
We are worth the fight.
We are worth a good life and love after.”
About the Author:
Ashley Herring Blake is a reader, writer, and mom to two boisterous boys. She holds a Master’s degree in teaching and loves coffee, arranging her books by color, and watching Buffy over and over again on Netflix with her friends. She’s the author of the young adult novels SUFFER LOVE, HOW TO MAKE A WISH, and GIRL MADE OF STARS, as well as the middle grade novels, IVY ABERDEEN’S LETTER TO THE WORLD and THE MIGHTY HEART OF SUNNY ST. JAMES.