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Monday, December 11, 2017

MG Review: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

This is a very unplanned review, but I have a ton of notes, so, let's give it a shot.

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Published: March 14th, 2017 by Aladdin
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 277 plus some extras.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

Review: I really, really liked this. It's super duper adorable, and I spent most of it just thinking about how sweet and cute it was. I think a ton of people are gonna love this. I haven't read a theatre themed book in ages, and I forgot how fun they are. If you're into theatre, you're gonna like this. And the Shakespeare references and jokes and all that are really fun, and if you're a Shakespeare fan, you're gonna like this. If you like MG, you're probably gonna like this. If you read this, you're probably just gonna like it.

One of my favourite things about this is that the characters are in eighth grade, so they're not super young where you're kind of wishing they wouldn't be so obsessed with romance, but I think the voice is approachable for younger audiences, too. Honestly, I think kids in third or fourth grade could read this on their own just fine, and younger kids could have this read to them by a parent or other grown-up, and they'd all enjoy it. Younger kids might not know Romeo and Juliet very well, but the book does very well at explaining it early on in a really natural way as it's explained to the characters.

Plot Talk: The summary's got this one. Play, crush, drama, etc. It is a nice simple plot - there's not extra drama with her family or anything, which I honestly find refreshing. It's really nice that it's just a normal story about a play and Mattie having a crush, and doesn't have to be super dramatic or dark or anything. And honestly I feel like that's awesome. It really, really works well.

Characters: Mattie is the more adorable baby queer ever. She's experiencing her first crush on a girl and trying to figure out what that means and what she wants to do next. Mattie is awesome, and really a wonderfully awkward preteen. She reads like such an average kid her age. I love that she crochets to de-stress. That is adorable. And I really liked that she's kind of the middle child, with an older sister and two younger brothers, and has different relationship dynamics with both.

Speaking of, the older characters and adults in this are great, especially Mattie's sister, who is wonderfully supportive, and her teacher. Her teacher especially I really appreciated. He's a really good role model, but very firm about keeping appropriate boundaries between him and his students, and after a recent book I read where things got weird, I was so down for that.

PG-13 stuff: This would be just fine for younger kids and older ones. No cursing or anything. There is some discussion about things like gay being used as an insult, and Mattie reacting to that, and that could be a little upsetting for kids to read, but I think the narrative counteracts it well with characters calling it out.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: The only thing I really have a complaint about is that the word bisexual is never used. Now, I don't think Mattie, at twelve, needs to have completely figured out her identity. But I do wish that the word had been used so that kids who are encountering this idea for the first time know what it's called. And since at times the word gay is used, I wish bisexual had been as well. It is a little heavily white, and I would have liked more fat characters and disabled characters, a little more diversity along those lines, and I think it would have been amazing if Mattie had had an older queer person to look up to.

Editing Laina: The paperback edition has been updated to include the word bisexual! That's awesome.

That's really about it. Spoiler, but I think some people might not love that the girls aren't "officially" a couple... but they're twelve. It's pretty standard for romance in middle grade, I think. Because, again, they're twelve. Don't put so much pressure on children, guys.

Cover comments: How adorable is this cover? It's just perfect. I love that both girls are on it, and it's not hiding them, and I think it's so perfect for its genre. It's totally adorable.

Conclusion: I really liked this. Ah, I should find some ownvoices reviews. Okay, here's one, aaaand it's been like two weeks since I wrote this and I don't want to look for more, lol. Leave me links, and I'll add them.

I also think before I go I'm going to mention a couple of interesting links I think you should read. First, the author talking about how some of this is based on her personal experiences as a teen, and wanting to write the book for her daughter. Next, I'm going to link kind of a random post, an article by Norma Fox Mazer published in 1997. The reason I'm doing this is because it's almost exactly the same situation that happened with the author and Star-Crossed. Twenty years later. I think that's worth reading even if you don't want to read the book. (Also, funnily enough, I've reviewed one of the books mentioned in the Norma Fox Mazer article. It holds up pretty well.)

Overall, I think this is a really sweet book. I don't think it's perfect, but it's really good and fun. I hope this is the start of many more books in the same vein that get better and better with each book. Four out of five roses.

Other notes:

I don't know where my review notebook that I took the notes for this is. So, that's it!

Peace and cookies,

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