|Eighth-grader Mattie is struggling through the school year. Unlike her friends, Tessa and Lucy, she is not invited to Willow’s party. In an act of rebellion, Mattie disguises herself as Darth Vader and decides to attend anyway. Even though the night ends in disaster, Mattie begins to realize that she enjoyed her time with a girl, Gemma, more so than if she was with a boy. Mattie begins to spend more time with Gemma as they are cast together in the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Although Mattie initially tries out for the part of Paris, she eventually finds herself as Romeo with Gemma as Juliet. The play as well as the upcoming Valentine’s Day dance forces Mattie to reconcile the unease she feels about her sexuality and decide whether or not to come out to her friends and Gemma.
With heartfelt, realistic characters, Star-Crossed is a well-written and engaging romance for fourth to eighth grade readers. Even though the characters are thirteen and fourteen, the vocabulary and LGBT and friendship themes are designed for upper elementary school-aged students into the middle grades, not quite yet transgressing into the young adult arena. With a complete cast of tween characters–Willow as your typical mean girl, popular boys who are trying so hard to be jocks, emphatically, frazzled teachers, and caring yet angsty family members—Star-Crossed poignantly and accurately depicts solid relationships worthy of LGBT realistic fiction. Mattie is just a girl with a sweet crush, and she is portrayed as an intelligent, strong (although confused) lead. Fall in love with Mattie who dresses as literary characters for Halloween, Tessa who uses hilarious Shakespearean insults when she is mad, and Mr. Torres, a charming English teacher who refers to his students as “humans.” Dee takes on gender roles, love, friendship, and family in this cozy read.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing/Aladdin for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee (Aladdin, 2017)
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