Alright, I’m just gonna do my best and assume that book clubs are NOT happening for this specific one. We missed One of us is Lying, and then we missed this one. Whatever I guess. Anyway! Here you go! First review for the week!
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
Synopsis From The Book
Port of Spain, Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.
Minneapolis, USA. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
Contemporary | YA – E |Character Death, Homophobia, Recovery and Sickness | Identity, Loss, Massive Life Changes
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
Alright here we go. New book time. I’m not too particularly invested in how this one goes since it is a romance and romance contemporaries are whatever to me. But it’s short, so can’t be too dramatic. Honestly that is all I ask for.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
I tend to do this thing, where I look at the cover, read the first two paragraphs of a book synopsis and move on. I try not to read too much, because I don’t want to get the plot completely turned over for me. I should have because this, while being a beautiful self discovery novel, also has character death. Which, if by this point, you were considering and then my words spoiled… Sorry, but I was not expecting it. Do I think I would have picked up the book knowing that? Probably not. I don’t tend to gravitate to contemporary novels with character death. Was it a bad book? No. However, it wasn’t my favorite.
This story is told from four perspectives at different times: Audre, Mabel, Queenie, and Afua. Audre is from Trinidad. She is being sent to America to live with her father after her mother caught her kissing a girl on the beach. Audre really loved Neri, but the two girls were ripped apart from each other and sent to different places. Queenie, Audre’s grandmother, tells Audre that she is going to be okay and that the Spirit will be with her always.
Mabel, from America, knew Audre when they were kids. When Audre arrives, she gets a big crush on Audre. Mabel has dated a boy, and kissed a girl. Her parents are pretty accepting, but she has not talked to them about anything yet. Mabel helps Audre through transitioning to America. Then Mabel gets really ill and after many doctor appointments, finds out that she has a rare and aggressive cancer. Audre begins to help Mabel as Mabel helped her. She gives Mabel some home remedies and hangs out with her all the time.
Mabel begins reading a story by a man on death row, and Audre’s healing remedies makes Mabel have dreams of Queenie. For her Wish, Mabel asks to help Afua. Audre and Mabel’s friends protest to help it happen. Audre and Mabel talk about their emotions with each other and have a steamy evening together. They then go to Coney Island to meet with Afua. While on a rollercoaster both Mabel and Afua disappear back to the stars.
What I Liked:
Mabel; I felt with her death. I didn’t cry, but I felt it. Having her journey told through herself and through the novel she was reading was amazing.
Audre; I liked Audre. Her journey from home and a girl she loved, to America to another girl she would love, was a story I liked to read. I liked her better, than Mabel in some ways. Her story was just so different than mine, so I did like to read about it. Her and her culture were so interesting to me, driving me to want to learn more.
Queenie; I loved her.
Identity; Neri, Queenie, Audre, Mabel, and even Afua. They all had their identities explored within the text of the novel. None of their experiences with their identity were the same. None of their journeys were the same.
Distinct Voices; I was caught off guard at first with Audre’s perspective, but I fell into her voice with not much time. Mabel’s was a lot more familiar to me, to be honest. I really liked the compliment that the two gave each other, and how real they felt in and out of their perspectives.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
As much as I liked the characters they didn’t really take me. Well. I loved Queenie, but otherwise most of the other characters I liked but was not too invested in.
Dreams; For as much as I did like Queenie, the dream sequences I didn’t much care for.
This becomes difficult for me, because I don’t think the book is bad. I just know it was not for me. Even with all the praises I give it, I have no more than a relatively lack luster feeling towards it.
“I protect that young boy’s soul by reminding him he is infinite, like the stars and the blackness between them.” – pg 124
“The Blackness between the stars is the melanin in your skin.” – pg 127