stargazing for beginners

Stargazing for Beginners: review

Author: Jenny McLachlan

Genre: Young adult

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s

Publication date: 6 April 2017

Length: 352 pages

Available from: Amazon

Synopsis

stargazing for beginnersScience geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her.

And Mum’s disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions.

Fans fell in love with the warmth, wit, romance and fierce friendships in Flirty Dancing, Love Bomb, Sunkissed and Star Struck, and Stargazing for Beginners has all that and galaxies more. This is the best kind of real-life fiction – with big themes and irresistible characters, it goes straight to your heart.

Review

You had me at ‘science geek’; nothing shouts ‘read me’ louder than the g-word.

It took me a few pages to get into this book, but then when I did, I was hooked – to the point that I devoured this book in just a couple of days.

This is the kind of novel I’ll give my daughter when she’s an early teen, happy to know that she’s reading something with good (though not preaching) messages about identity, love and family. Meg isn’t an über eek of the Sheldon Cooper variety; she’s a really normal, likeable girl with intelligence and ambition who proves to be socially well adjusted once – and this is the core of the story – she finds her tribe.

The tribe: I liked the motley lot the author assembled to befriend Meg, especially the outspoken Annie, who’s not defined by disability. The author provides plenty of scope for these teens to connect, and perhaps it’s a little optimistic to write that bonds quickly form – but isn’t optimism what we need in young adult? Wouldn’t I rather my own daughter read this book, rather than a dystopian novel that leaves her wallowing in despair?

This book is uplifting – and it’s warm and witty and clever. There’s a simplicity and innocence that’s refreshing, but also a poignancy that pulls you in. Like any teen, Meg has a whole load of difficult feelings to contend with, and these are heightened by her mother abandoning her to care for her little sister.

About that: I wondered, when reading the blurb, how the author would handle this abandonment. I expected angst aplenty, and serious repercussions come the end. Reading through the lens of being a mother myself, I struggled a little with the fact that this neglect, while by no mean normalised, isn’t presented as gravely as it might have been. But then, to do so wouldn’t tally with the optimism of the book, and would diminish the need for Meg to take responsibility and become a young adult.

Overall, this is clean contemporary YA writing at its best, an easy five-star recommendation for teens at the younger end of the spectrum.

My rating:

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.