Saturday, December 29, 2018

Book Review: "See All the Stars" by Kit Frick

I really enjoyed this book and found it surprisingly poignant. Think of it as not-so Mean Girls crossed with We Were Liars or One of Us is Lying, where you know something happened, but you just don't know what or who was responsible until you get further into the book.

Once the four of them were practically inseparable friends—Ellory, Ret, Jenni, and Bex. While Ret always had control over the group's dynamics (or the others paid the price), they spent most of the first three years of high school in each other's orbit. But everyone knew that Ret and Ellory were the closest, and while Ret liked to keep Ellory on her toes, she knew Ellory would always come running when she wanted her to.

"Little by little, she drew me to the surface. Soon Ret's world was my world, her friends my friends. It was like it had always been that way. Everything Ret touched felt electric, exciting, a little bit dangerous. Including me. Before Ret, I was basically invisible. With Ret, I was somebody."

But now, as Ellory prepares to start her senior year of high school, she is alone. Her friendships have been destroyed, her classmates whisper about her (or even dare to ridicule her), even her teachers treat her with caution. She just wants to make it through until the end of the school year, when hopefully she can go to art school across the country. Until then she wants to put everything that happened toward the end of junior year behind her, when everything changed, leaving her feeling angry, guilty, hurt, and alone. But there's one person who keeps writing her notes that doesn't want her to forget just yet.

How did everything change so drastically? During junior year she was in love with Matthias, a beautiful but troubled classmate. Even though her relationship with Matthias limited her ability to be at Ret's beck and call all the time, she still was able to hang out with Ret, Bex, and Jenni, and enjoy their usual pastimes. Why is she the one everyone treats differently? Why didn't anyone take her side?

See All the Stars shifts back and forth from junior year when life seemed idyllic, to senior year when everything is so different and Ellory is an outcast. Recounting the lazy summer days, the flush of first love, the jumble of emotions, the tug of obligation between romance and friendship, to the jealousy, recriminations, confusion, and anger, the book both gradually reveals what happened how Ellory struggles to make sense of all of it, and how, ultimately, she realizes what must be done if she can ever move on.

I really enjoyed the way Kit Frick set this story up. While at times the jumping back and forth between past and present was a little confusing, by and large it really worked to stoke the suspense and make you question just which characters you can trust. While some of what happened was not surprising, there was one moment that surprised me, and I actually had to go back and re-read the previous pages, thinking, "Wait, what?"

Certainly what some of the characters go through is moving, but what was most poignant is how in a split second everything can change, how insecure people act often act in selfish and cruel ways, and how hard it is to pick up the pieces of your life when not all that occurred was your fault. All of those emotions run through See All the Stars, and while there is certainly no shortage of teenage angst, there's little melodrama.

Once again, I must marvel at the immense depth of talent in the YA genre right now. There are so many different types of YA books being written right now, and there are some authors, like Frick, who really know how to tell a story and pique your emotions. This was a good one, and I can't wait to read her next book.

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