Torn between loyalties when her beloved twin brother is accused of rape, Mara struggles with a changing sense of right and wrong as well as strained relations with her ex-girlfriend before she is forced to face a trauma from her own past. By the author of How to Make a Wish. 25,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook.
Ashley Herring Blake
used to write songs and now she writes books, including Suffer Love
and How to Make a Wish
. She reads them a lot too and has been known to stare wistfully at her bookshelves. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and two sons. Visit Ashley at ashleyherringblake.com
and on Twitter at @ashleyhblake.
*Starred Review* As the #MeToo movement continues to ignite the sharing of women's stories on- and off-line around consent, assault, and sexual agency, so too will the growing number of young adult novels that center around these formative topics. Blake's timely and gripping contribution is a nuanced he-said, she-said story with a fierce feminist bent. When Mara's twin brother, Owen, is accused of rape by his girlfriend, Hannah-a young woman Mara trusts implicitly-she's forced to reexamine everything she's always believed to be true about him. Meanwhile, Mara herself is finding footing in a friendship with her ex, Charlie. Charlie's self-assurance as a young genderqueer person and a rising musician directly contrasts with Mara's own insecurities about her identity, which are informed by a past trauma that the accusations against Owen threaten to expose. Blake's provocative work is full of bracing descriptions of Mara's internal conflicts: How can she love Owen so deeply but revile his alleged behavior? How does Mara make peace with her own sexual tragedy while holding space for Hannah? Unforgettable in its candor, Girl Made of Stars is ideal for teen readers who can handle the candid emotional intricacies of burgeoning sexuality and all its myriad possible pitfalls. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
A feminist teen struggles with the personal impact of sexual assault. Bisexual high school junior Mara has always had a close bond with her twin brother, Owen. After a traumatic experience caused her to withdraw from friends and family as a coping mechanism, Owen was the only one able to draw her out of her shell. When Owen's girlfriend, Hannah—one of Mara's best friends—accuses Owen of rape, however, Mara's world is turned upside down as the brother she thought she knew begins to trigger the very PTSD she's been trying to hide. As the founder of her school's feminist club, Mara has never wavered in her conviction to always believe survivors. But as many of her classmates and family, including her fiercely feminist mother, publicly side with Owen, the school's feminist club rallies around Hannah, and Mara feels forced to choose—between her friend, her family, and coming to terms with her own past. Mara's bisexuality is never stereotypical, and her ex Charlie 's experience as a closeted nonbinary teen still using feminine pronouns provides excellent and much-needed representation. Blake (Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, 2017, etc.) rightly makes it clear that this book is not focused on Owen or his intentions; his impact and Mara's processing take center stage. Owen's best friend is Korean; other major characters are white. Resources for survivors are provided. A powerful, nuanced, and necessary read. (Fiction. 14-17) Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Charlie refuses to answer my texts. Or she has her phone set on silent. Or she forgot to charge it. Or she had a rare fit of temper and tossed it into a toilet, thereby rendering it unusable.
Whatever the case, this lack of communication between us is decidedly not normal.
I stare at my phone for a few more seconds, analyzing my last text to her. It’s a simple question—?Will you be at the Empower meeting next week?—?so I don’t understand why she won’t answer it. Yes or no. How hard is that? Then again, Charlie’s never missed an Empower meeting, so she probably sees right through my desperate attempt at indifference.
Groaning at the still-blank screen, I toss the phone onto my bed and slide my window open. An early autumn breeze ghosts over my skin and hair, bringing with it the smell of burning leaves and cedar from the rocking chairs on our front porch. Throwing a leg over the sill, I twist my body through the window and onto the porch’s flat roof. In the distance, the setting sun drizzles the last bit of color through the sky, lavender fading to darker violet. The first stars are blinking into view and I lie down on the gritty shingles, my eyes already peeling through the almost-dark for Gemini. You can’t really see the constellation this time of year, but I know those twins are hiding somewhere in the west.
“There they are,” Owen says as he climbs through the window and settles next to me. He waves his hand off toward the east.
“You’re so full of shit.”
“What, they’re right there.”
“That’s Cancer . . . or something.”
“I know my twins, woman.”
I laugh and relax into the familiarity of the scene. Owen, messy-haired and clad in flannel and slim-fit jeans, full of astrological pomp and circumstance. We lie quietly for a bit, night sounds growing thicker with the dark.
“Once upon a time . . .” Owen whispers, and I smile. This is familiar too, all of his bravado softening into this: my twin brother spinning stories under a domed sky.
“. . . a brother and a sister lived with the stars. They were happy and had wild adventures exploring the sky,” I continue, filling in the beginning of our story the way we always have since we were kids.
“One day, they went out searching for true love,” Owen says.
“Oh my god, you’re such a sap.”
“Shut up—?my twin does what I want.”
“Fine.” I stare at a spot of darkening sky, hoping to catch a shooting star. “But Sister Twin didn’t care about true love, so—”
“Oh, I’m full of shit?”
“—?she decided to seek her fortune in a nearby galaxy.”
“But on her way, she caught a glimpse of Andromeda and thought, Screw fortune, give me that ass!”
“You are a vile human being.”
“I’m not a human at all. I’m a constellation.”
“Half of a constellation.”
“The better half.”
I groan dramatically and try to shove Owen’s shoulder, but he dodges me and hooks his arm around my neck, blowing a raspberry into my hair.
“Speaking of better halves,” he says when he releases me, “why isn’t Charlie attached to your person right now? Wait, is she in your pocket?”
He leans into me as if he’s trying to look into my literal pocket and I push him away. “These leggings don’t have any pockets, and you know why she’s not here right now.”
His mouth forms a little circle. “Right.” He squints at me, then shakes his head. “No, sorry. I can’t imagine one of you without the other.”
My smile fades and I sit up, wrapping a lock of hair around my forefinger. Charlie’s always loved playing with my hair and plaiting the ends into little braids. It’s a years-old habit, born freshman year when I sat in front of her in American Lit and my nearly waist-length waves spilled over the back of my chair. Starting school that year had me tied into a million little knots, but Charlie’s long fingers weaving through my hair relaxed me, helped me focus and feel like me again. Right now, with my best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-ex-girlfriend bricking a wall of silence between us, I feel everything but.
“Which is exactly why I broke up with her now,” I say. “Before it’s too late.”
Owen coughs “bullshit” into his hand, an intimation I decide to ignore.
“We’ll be okay,” I say. “Remember two years ago when I convinced her I could give her an awesome haircut?”
“Mara, you butchered her hair. It was like a faux hawk on meth.”
“Which led to her getting it fixed by a professional the next day, giving rise to her beloved swoop. So really, she should’ve thanked me.”
“Pretty sure she didn’t talk to you for a week.”
“And we got through it. You’re only proving my point.”
He tilts his head toward me. “This is a bit different from a haircut, Mar.”
I swallow through the sudden ballooning in my throat. My fingers itch for my phone, my mind already forming another text, just to check on her. Maybe I should tell her I’m going to the party at the lake with Owen and Alex. Surely she’d at least grace me with a craughing emoji. Instead, I make myself stay put, literally pressing my butt into the roof.
“We’ll be fine,” I say. Because we will. We have to be.
Wheels crunch over gravel, pulling our attention to the driveway and Alexander Tan’s sunshine-yellow Volkswagen Bug pulling to a stop in front of our house.
“I’m never going to get over his car,” I say, getting to my feet and brushing roof grit off my tunic dress.
“He’s lucky he’s not driving around on a Huffy beach bike. Besides, he loves that thing. Even keeps little flowers in the vase by the steering wheel.”
“Only when you put them there. Are you two courting?”
Owen feigns shock as his best friend steps out of his car. Alex’s hair is so dark, it blends in with the rest of the night and nearly disappears. The rest of him is very, very visible. Checkered button-up under a snug gray sweater. Slim dark jeans and boots. He’s the definition of dapper as hell.
“You ready for this?” Owen asks me, standing and stretching like a cat.
“Oh yeah,” I deadpan. “A night of dodging guys with beer breath and perpetual boners. Can’t wait.”
“Maybe they’ll leave you alone if they think you’re still with Charlie. I don’t think the breakup is common knowledge yet.”
I snort a laugh. Thinking I’m not single is the last thing that will keep some of the cretins masquerading as teenage boys at our school from harassing me. It was bad enough when I came out as bisexual last year, but to date a girl? It’s nothing but threesome jokes and passive-aggressive slut shaming every time I venture into the hallway. Lucky for me, Empower’s monthly newspaper is pretty widely read this year, so I get to eviscerate every last one of those jerks on a regular basis. At least on paper.
“Why are you on the roof?” Alex calls, hooking his thumbs into his jean pockets and peering up at us.
“Thought we’d catapult ourselves into the car tonight,” I say. “Sound good to you?”
“Blood and I aren’t exactly friends.”
“Pansy ass,” Owen mutters as he curls his body back through the window. He and Alex have one of those annoying bro-hate-love relationships. The three of us have known one another since the first grade, when we all sat at the same table in Mr. Froman’s class and shared a box of crayons and safety scissors. They constantly berate and nag each other but can barely go a few hours without texting. They’re like Charlie and me . . . without all the queerness.
And recent and extreme awkwardness. Let’s not forget that.
“Um . . . want me to catch you or something?” Alex asks, and I realize I’ve been staring down at him for a good minute.
I inch toward the ledge, dangling one foot into empty space. “Maybe . . .”
“Mara McHale, don’t you dare.” He stumbles toward me and holds up his hands, his long violin-playing fingers splayed wide as if he could really break my fall if I took a dive.
“Don’t tell me what to do,” I say, letting my foot continue to hang over the edge.
“Don’t be stupid.”
My lip curls involuntarily. “Don’t be a brute.”
“Don’t be so . . . mean.”
The tension leaves my body and I can’t help but laugh. Alex never could execute a good comeback. It’s sort of adorable.
“Good god, Mar, stop antagonizing the entire human population,” Owen calls as he bursts out of the front door below me. He claps Alex on the back and peers up at me. “Let’s go. We all need a drink.”
I don’t know about a drink, but I sure as hell need something. Climbing back through the window, I force myself to leave my phone pillowed in my blue down comforter.
Two can play the ignoring game.