Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on May 15th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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I can’t think about Owen. I can’t attach his name to Hannah on a hospital bed, bandages on her wrist, tears on her lovely face.
Girl Made of Stars is about a situation that for the vast majority of us is not only horrifying, but unimaginable. For other feminists like me, our default is to offer compassion to rape survivors. To offer belief. To unite against the rapist. But… imagine if the alleged rapist was your closest friend, your anchor, the one person you’ve always been able to trust. Imagine if it was your twin.
This is the situation Mara finds herself in. She desperately wants to believe her brother when he says he did nothing wrong, but she knows the victim is not someone who is likely to lie. Torn between the feminist values she has always held close to her heart and her loyalty to her brother, Mara goes on an introspective journey that is ultimately about her own personal growth.
Mara has a lot of issues of her own to deal with beyond this. At the start of the book she has just broken up with Charlie, who is genderqueer but uses female pronouns and still hasn’t come out to her parents. The deeper reasons for the break-up are revealed as the novel progresses, tied in with Mara’s reasons for being particularly affected by the accusation against her brother.
It’s a hard-hitting critique of rape culture and especially the ways victims are silenced by the disbelief of others. It’s also an intimate portrait of a teenage girl’s mind as she struggles to cope with her world being turned upside down alongside figuring out who she is. I think the book is stronger because it doesn’t linger too long on Owen and the crime itself, choosing to focus instead on how Mara processes this impossible situation.
I’ve lumped myself in with my labels — girl, bi, queer — but I still can’t seem to really apply any of it to the person I see in the mirror every day. That girl is still voiceless, still scared.
Mara’s sexuality is neither stereotypical, nor the focal point of the book. We see her explore two relationships – with genderqueer, white Charlie and a Korean boy called Alex – but her liking of more than one gender is not treated as a big deal.
In the end, this is a book about the damage caused when we treat rape survivors with suspicion. It is necessary for us to listen, even when we really don’t want to.