Friday, September 5, 2008

Review: Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

I picked up this book for two reasons: 1. I loved the cover art. 2. I loved Mass's previous offering, Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall. That's about it. I think there are many worse reasons to pick up a book, don't you?

The plot: Ally (short for Alpha), Bree, and Jack would never talk to each other if they all went to the same school. Ally has lived most of her life on the Moon Shadow Campground, which is miles from nowhere. She's an expert on astronomy and has never read a fashion magazine or watched a teen TV show. Bree, who spends hours on looking her best and securing her spot at the top of her school social ladder, is convinced that she was adopted into her family of academics. Her parents are astronomers and her little sister doesn't understand the point of eyeliner. Bree is brought to the Moon Shadow Campground by her parents, who have received a grant to be its caretakers for the next three years. Jack is, for want of a better description, a typical teenage boy. He's not interested in school and would rather spend his time in his tree house reading fantasy and science fiction novels and drawing pictures of aliens. After failith science, Jack is given the option of traveling with his teacher to Moon Shadow Campground to collect astronomical data and witness a solar eclipse. It's either that or make up the work in summer school. To Jack, there is no option.

Neither Ally nor Bree nor Jack is entirely thrilled about the days to come, but with nothing else around they have no choice but to get to know each other. Their isolation leads to some very cool discoveries about themselves, each other, and the universe (literally).

The good: Even though all the chapters in the alternating viewpoints are in first person, Mass does an excellent job of making the voices distinguished. It's easy to tell which character is talking when. Also, each character is at a crossroads in his or her life. Rather than turning their attitudes regarding the Moon Shadow Campground a complete one-eighty, Mass shows us that major life changes must be adjusted to. Even if you don't end up where you want to be, you can assimilate and make the most of yourself in an unfamiliar place without changing the basics of who you are. If I have one complaint about the book it's that Ally and Bree's younger siblings get a little too much screen time; they're cute but I would have liked more time with the main characters. But overall, I love that the setting is not in a school but still brings all the drama and self-discovery that is a teen's life.

The publisher lists this book as ages 8-12, but I don't think 13, maybe even 14-year-olds would find it too young. Those of you who lead book discussions may want to pick this one up.

Wendy Mass's blog || review at BookEnvy || Video review at The One-Minute Critic

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