Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Whew, this was hard. Hard to read, hard to get through, and hard to make amends with some of the ways it plays out. Books about rape are especially difficult to wade through at times, but it was a struggle not to let my feelings toward the accused rapist get in the way. And, for Mara, having your twin brother accused of raping his girlfriend, who happens to be one of your best friends, is an exceptionally painful experience. Mara and Owen are close and always have been, as twins are wont to be. He’s one of her best friends, and it’s exactly how it should be. Her other BFF turned ex-girlfriend, Charlie says they are still friends, but it’s hard seeing her with another girl. She misses their friendship, misses their closeness, and just misses her. When she sees Charlie and her new girlfriend at a party, she can’t handle it and catches a ride home with Owen’s best friend. He seems a little rattled after walking in on Owen and Hannah (technically they were outside) but they just brush it off until the next day when she finds out Hannah accused Owen of rape. But they’ve had sex before, so what’s different? What happened? Her parents are staunchly in the “there’s no way my son could have done that camp” and want Mara to automatically get on the same page. But she can’t; there’s a niggling feeling that she can’t ignore. Things are strained between the two now and when Hannah finally returns to school, the victim blaming is in full force. Mara can’t believe the way he’s treating the situation, and when the two finally have it out, it is absolutely one of the most painful and powerful scenes I’ve ever read. It punched me in the gut and then some. I’ve felt helpless before, but this was on another level. Honestly, this is a difficult review to put into words simply because there is so much to talk about- gender identity, sexuality, rape, family loyalty, victims of rape and assault. So many things but all done well, each getting their time in the spotlight. It didn’t feel as though they were being crammed into the book so the author could check them off a list, but felt natural to the story. Each character’s development, although only one point of view, had their own voice, making it difficult for Mara to automatically defend her brother. She doesn’t want to believe Hannah but knowing how little of a voice the victim sometimes has and how hard it is to tell someone what happened, she knows she needs to listen. Her secrets about her own experience with sexual assault come to the surface, and to make peace with anything, she needs to be brave like Hannah. An easy recommendation to have in your arsenal of rape culture YA lit, especially because of the unique position Mara is in throughout the story. Highly recommend.