May 4, 2018

An unforgettable tale of human emotions || Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Title : Girl Made of Stars
Author : Ashley Herring Blake
Release Date : May 15th 2018
Publisher : HMH Books for Young Readers
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.

Trigger warning : Rape/Sexual harassment

What can I possibly say about this book that will give it proper justice? How can I even begin to summarize the whirlwind of emotions that have been created in the wake of reading this story? Girl Made of Stars wrecked me, moved me and haunted me. It's a story that will make sure that none of its readers will ever stay the same after turning the last page.

Ashley Herring Blake's books create the impact in me that Sarah Dessen's books did when I was a pre teen girl just venturing into the world of YA. At 12 years old, when I read Just Listen, I was inspired to take notice of things I shrugged off, to confess and to move on. At almost 20, Ashley has become the perfect substitute to the matured reader and female in me, and to say that Girl Made of Stars has created a lasting impression in me would be an understatement. 

In the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, we have managed to see numerous perspectives of the discussion of sexual harassment. Girl Made of Stars just doesn't discuss rape culture, it takes it on, and hits the nail on the head in a raw and realistic manner that will stun you. Mara and Hannah are not girls strange to us, we meet them everyday, sometimes, we are them. As the story travels along the topics of rape accusations, victim blaming, consent and the blatant truth, you can't help but draw parallels to real life incidents, stories, memories and news. Girl Made of Stars is by no means an easy read, but it's powerful and it's important.

Girl Made of Stars tackles a hypothetical question I have often asked myself. If someone you love and trust is accused of sexual harassment, will you let your love override your values and feminism and trust the accused? Or will you believe the victim? Or will you wait for the truth to be revealed? I have asked this question to myself a lot of times, and every time, I am scared to find an answer. I am scared that I might actually be a hypocrite behind all my beliefs and values. Mara is faced with that question in real life, when her twin brother, one of the most important people in her life, is accused of rape by his girlfriend. Who will she believe, as a sister, as a female, as a survivor? When Mara finds her stance and her answer - and it's not an easy journey - she passes on the mantle to all of us to ask ourselves the question, and find the truth within ourselves.

Ashley's previous novel, How to Make A Wish, was rich in characters and relationships, and Girl Made of Stars follows that. Mara is a terrific protagonist, a girl whose emotions are so raw, whose thoughts are so clear and whose plight is so relatable. You'll feel for her as her world is shattered and you'll stand with her as she takes decisions. Mara is a girl with conscience, a girl of resolve and most of all, a girl full of compassion.

In between the central crux of the story is Mara's own complicated relationship with Charlie. Her best friend and ex girlfriend, with whom her relationship is strained. Charlie is genderqueer, and uses she/her pronouns. There's Alex, a much needed trustworthy male character in a book like this. Mara's relationships, her bisexuality and her conflicted feelings are integral parts of her story, and her personality.

The book's portrayal of victim blaming is heartbreaking. As a South Asian female who grew up in a community which finds it too easy to point fingers at the victim, whether they believe them or not, it was not a foreign concept, yet still so hard to read about. The book is hard hitting and doesn't hold back. It reminds you once again why many victims find it hard to confess, to come forward and to say the truth.

I have to mention Ashley's writing, because it's phenomenal. I don't know how she manages to find the balance between that beautiful, almost whimsical prose, while also keeping the content and emotions raw and real. The book is just full of plain, naked emotions, and the writing is the smooth sea on which they flow so easily.

Girl Made of Stars is that book that everyone needs to read, whether you read contemporary or not, whether you're up for some reality check or not. It's a story packed with myriad of emotions, of realistic characters so close to life and a novel that will incite thoughts and realizations that are poignant and necessary. This is undoubtedly one of the best novels of 2018, and unarguably one of the best contemporaries I've ever read.

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