Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst, Paula Garner
Published by Candlewick Press on April 16, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Young Adult
Length: 352 pages Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
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Sam Jones and Zoe Miller have one thing in common: they both want an escape from reality. Loner Sam flies under the radar at school and walks on eggshells at home to manage her mom’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, wondering how she can ever leave to pursue her dream of studying aerospace engineering. Popular, people-pleasing Zoe puts up walls so no one can see her true self: the girl who was abandoned as an infant, whose adoptive mother has cancer, and whose disabled brother is being sent away to live in a facility. When an unexpected encounter results in the girls’ exchanging phone numbers, they forge a connection through text messages that expands into a private universe they call Starworld. In Starworld, they find hilarious adventures, kindness and understanding, and the magic of being seen for who they really are. But when Sam’s feelings for Zoe turn into something more, will the universe they’ve built survive the inevitable explosion?
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Right off the bat, I’m in love with Starworld. This unexpected novel pulls so many of my heartstrings. I am absolutely one of those humans who likes finding people in books I can relate to, and from page one, Sam Jones was my girl.
Things I like about Sam:
- She hides in Art Class.
- She’s terrified of humans and still texts like the most amazing nerd ever.
- She hides in bathroom stalls for peace and quiet when the world is too much.
If that were all there was to it, I’d be a fan of this book, because already I’m driven by a character who had me wrapped around her finger in the first eighteen pages. But that’s not all. Because pages eighteen through thirty-six brought Zoe, and I immediately fell in love with her too. If Sam is the girl I relate to now, hiding in the books and crannies and wishing I couple disappear in my passions, Zoe is the girl I was in high school. An outlier who wants to me a cool girl. Zoe is more successful than I ever was, but she’s willing to do anything in theatre to be a part of the story. She cares about people and knows her life is blessed despite everything and yet she still needs an escape. Like Zoe, I even had a mother going through cancer when I was that age, although that’s where the familial similarities end. The two girls together are incredible as well, so from page 36 forward, even if this was just intended to be a romance… I’m all in.
Starworld is not a romance, though. It’s a story about two girls with immensely complicated lives struggling between their own social, familial, and academic responsibilities to be themselves. To just get their homework done. There’s a lot of conversation about the struggle between guilt and desire. When the feel ungrateful for being unhappy or not 100% enthusiastic. They’re complicated and their struggle is heartbreaking and beautiful all at once. It’s actually refreshing to read such an incredibly diverse book (differently abled rep, mental health rep, LGBTQ+ rep, plus an adopted character, a character with terminal illness, and a character with divorced parents) and have it be about more than a romantic story that “fixes” everything.
And I liked the twist, I really did. I liked it because it was something I haven’t seen in YA before, and I liked it because it showed both sides of the story. I don’t want to give it away because I wasn’t expecting it, but I think that sometimes things are not wrapped up like a Disney movie… but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s scary and messy, but it can still be something beautiful at the end of the day.
Generally speaking, I loved this book all over. It was a little messy, but mostly sweet. It definitely made me want my own Sam or Zoe type person to go to Starworld with. The pacing was quick and yet perfect, and the story was light and nice, with some harsh realities mixed in to ground it. In so many ways Starworld made me feel raw and vulnerable, because both these girls slowly tear themselves open. Be prepared for heartwarming adoreabless, but also be prepared to cry.
Starworld is staying on the shelf.
Gosh I loved this book. It was a light book, and a book that made me happy. Both POVs in this book were so reliable for me and completely up my alley. On one hand, I want to say that it’s a light, feel-good read, but that’s not entirely true, either, because I got teary eyed at points when things went a different way. A lot of the conversation around Zoe’s family was so sweet… ugh, guys. I really loved this book. I’m going to hold on to this one and definitely revisit.
Do you enjoy complicated contemporaries? I like the messiness of the stories, but it does make them less fluffy. Do you have any favorite contemporary novels?