BWW Review: STAR-CROSSED by Barbara Dee
I first heard about STAR-CROSSED by Barbara Dee when the author's daughter wrote this incredibly poignant message on Tumblr about her coming out story and the way it inspired her mom to want to write a new middle-grade novel about two girls discovering their identities. The article is worth a read; it talks about her own feelings, as well as the fact that the mom fought for Mattie to have long hair on the book's cover and that she changed the ending to include a date and make it less ambiguous! In early reviews and buzz surround the book, people have said that the main character, Mattie, is the youngest bi-sexual protagonist in fiction, and Dee went back to make this feature even more prominent in the book.
I was also excited about the book because it revolved around the world of theatre, and that always gets my attention in a book. Mattie doesn't want to try out for a big role, even though her teacher thinks she should, and when the cast's Romeo quits--and there are no understudies--Mattie finds herself cast in the role because she knows the part and had been helping the previous Romeo understand the show. But now she's, *gulp* playing lead against Gemma, the new girl at school who has changed her world and way of thinking. She's coming to realize that she has a huge crush on Gemma, and she doesn't know what to do about the fact that she's now playing Gemma's love interest onstage. Can she play it cool? Is there any possibility Gemma could like her back as more than a friend?
This book is just what's needed in middle-grade literature right now. There aren't many bi-sexual characters for kids to identify with, and so many will see themselves reflected in Mattie. Sexuality is still a topic not explored much in children's literature, but recently, the tides have begun to turn and the offerings are becoming more diverse. And not just representation, but representation in a positive light! This book is needed, and I hope it makes its way into the hands of all the kids out there that need someone to go through this journey with them and show them that they are beautiful just the way they are.
The book also features great family dynamics. I love when characters interact with their families and that the families aren't horrible or non-present. And I love how forward-thinking Mattie's teacher is and the way that nobody blinks twice about having two female leads in a school show. Mattie's teacher is also very encouraging in other ways, and would be a teacher I would have liked to have in school (Though I may have been a little annoyed when he basically told us the entire summary of Romeo and Juliet before we started reading it as a class to try to get everyone interested....just because I like surprises!)
This is definitely an important book to get out into the world and be easily accessible to the kids who need it--whether they're coming to terms with their own identities, or just learning more about the world and still developing their own thoughts on acceptance and open-mindedness that will help them with their relationships with other people in life.
STAR-CROSSED by Barbara Dee was published by Aladdin // Simon & Schuster on March 14, 2017.