Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake is a magnificent book. A tough, heartbreaking read. I strongly recommend this – but please be aware of content warnings for rape, sexual assault, and victim blaming. I will be discussing these things in this review as well, so proceed with caution.
Goodreads synopsis: “I need Owen to explain this. Because yes, I do know that Owen would never do that, but I also know Hannah would never lie about something like that.”
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 and best friend since childhood, 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.
My rating: 4,5/5 stars.
This book does an incredible job at portraying issues surrounding consent and rape culture, trauma, and how to deal with finding out that someone close to you has done something horrible. It’s about truths that are hard, impossible even, to deal with, and about having to deal with them anyway.
I am impressed with how this book showed victim blaming, showed how prevalent it is and how ugly. How people will simply dismiss survivors of sexual assault because the perpetrator happens to be someone they like; how they will turn against the survivor; how bystanders do nothing about it. Though she hates it, Mara knows her brother is lying, but their parents refuse to see it. Kids at school turn against Hannah, and only a select few give her support. It’s exactly why Mara never told anyone about the time she was sexually assaulted: she didn’t think anyone would believe her.
Mara’s sexual assault is told in a flashback. The entire chapter is in italics so you can easily skip it if it’s too much; you’ll still understand the rest of the story. It’s already quite clear before and after the flashback that she was assaulted by a teacher three years ago. The lasting impact of the assault is clear throughout the novel. It’s also clear why Mara was never able to tell anyone, showing how hard it can be to speak up.
One of the lasting effects of the assault is that Mara has trouble in her relationship with Charlie – her genderqueer best friend and, by the beginning of the book, ex. Mara is scared she can’t be the girlfriend Charlie wants her to be, and so she breaks up with her. Their relationship was a beautiful thread in this book.
I also loved the portrayal of queerness. Mara is bi and Charlie is genderqueer and likes girls. I was thrilled to see a genderqueer love interest and it is amazing representation. It was casual, while still paying attention to the struggles they both face. Charlie is still figuring out her gender identity and while that’s not the focus of the story, it was portrayed so accurately. The questions she was asking herself about what it meant to be genderqueer, what pronouns to use, how to express your gender, when and how to tell your parents, all resonated with me.
This book is so sympathetic to all survivors of sexual assault and rape, no matter how they cope, whether they speak up or not, whether they press charges or not, no matter how complicated the situation is. I think Girl Made of Stars is a must-read for anyone who is able to read it. My heart is still aching thinking back on it. (And I mean that literally.) This is definitely one of the best YA contemporaries I’ve ever read.
I received this book as an eARC from Netgalley.