Girl Made of Stars
by Ashley Herring Blake
Expected Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Obtained Via: I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for consideration of an honest review.
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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, 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.
If you’ve been around my blog for awhile, it’s no secret that I tend to gravitate towards YA contemporary that deals with tough subjects, especially books that deal with sexual assault and consent. Girl Made of Stars offers a unique perspective on the subject, since the main character is Mara, the twin sister of a boy who is accused of raping his at-the-time girlfriend, Hannah. . . who also happens to be one of Mara’s closest friends. At the same time, Mara is dealing with a recent break-up with her girlfriend Charlie and being forced to reckon with her own trauma that she’s kept a secret from everyone from years.
If the premise sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Girl Made of Stars pulls no punches in how messy and complicated it allows the narrative to be. For such a short book, there’s a lot going on, which is all the more impressive since so much of the conflict is internal, as Mara struggles with who to believe. Before, Mara would say that both her brother Owen and her friend Hannah were trustworthy–but now their stories are at odds with another. Mara’s been brought up in a feminist household to believe women and runs a feminist group/newsletter at her school, but has to reckon with the fact that her parents are standing behind Owen one hundred percent.
While all this is happening, Mara and Charlie are trying to learn how to be best friends again if they’re no longer dating. Mara is out as bisexual from the very beginning of the book, and Charlie, though she uses she/her pronouns and Mara refers to Charlie as her ex-girlfriend throughout the book, is genderqueer. Girl Made of Stars also touches briefly on the intersection between sexual assault and how victims often identify, which shows as Mara and her friends try to grapple with what’s happened.
I have never read an Ashley Herring Blake book before, but I have immediate plans to go and read all of her backlist. Mara’s internal thought process and struggle was so well-developed and written. Once I started reading this book, I was absolutely hooked even though the subject matter was so serious and it was tough to take at times. I rarely cry when reading, but I teared up multiple times while reading Girl Made of Stars.
While it’s incredibly important to have books about sexual assault from the survivor’s POV, Girl Made of Stars is also important for what it gives us–the look at how sexual violence not only affects the victim and the perpetrator but entire communities, friend groups, families, etc. Girl Made of Stars is probably one of the best depictions of how victim-blaming comes about the culture that fosters it. This is a very important book and I’m still stunned at how wonderfully done it was.
A beautifully written, touching, hard-hitting book about sexual assault and victim-blaming and the way it affects everyone. 5/5 stars.