September 23rd is Celebrate Bi-Sexuality Day (also known as Bi Visibility Day). I marked this day by reading Star-Crossed, a sweet story of middle-school love by Barbara Dee. It is one of those rare Middle-Grade books where the main character identifies as Bi.
First things first – Every chapter begins with a quote from Rome and Juliet. (A bonus for the Shakespeare lover!)
Matilda, or Mattie, is a witty and creative child. She tends to over-think and spaces out often. Lucy Yang and Tessa Pollock are her best friends. Lucy is the sensible one, always trying to make others comfortable. She likes PowerPoint presentations and attention to details, while Tessa is the dramatic one using Shakespearean insults in everyday conversations–thy face is not worth sunburning! I’l beat thee, but I should infect my hands! Puke-stocking!
Mattie has a crush on a boy, Elijah, her classmate. But he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings. At Willow’s (not an evil character, but the modern-day Tybalt) Halloween party, Mattie gatecrashes dressed as Darth Vader! Yes, you read it right – she dresses up as Darth Vader. A chance encounter in the kitchen with Gemma Braithwaite, a Brit girl, opens new challenges for Mattie. She realizes now she has a crush on Gemma.
The story unfolds amazingly as Mattie explores her sexual orientation and feelings amid the annual eighth grade class play–she gets to play Romeo to Gemma’s Juliet.
The characters in this book are absolutely lovable. Mattie, her friends, teacher and parents are so beautifully developed. They are weird, brilliant and memorable–just like the people we meet in our daily lives.
Another commendable thing about this story is the varied family diversity and dynamics. Gemma lives with her dad. Tessa’s mom loves ranting about politics, while Lucy’s mom is a Germaphobe! Mattie’s family comprises her mom, dad, two younger brothers and an elder half-sister, Cara. The relationship between the siblings is really endearing, especially the one between Cara and Mattie.
Mr. Torres, the English teacher, is kind, supportive and lovable. No surprise that he is the ‘best teacher.’ He is the kind of teacher every pupil needs.
The best aspect for me in this book is the openness. For any child or even an adult, coming out is never easy. But supportive friends and family, makes the journey easier. I loved how Mattie could discuss her feelings with her friends and sister, and they were equally supportive.
Dee’s writing is absolutely age-appropriate, and she delves on inclusion and bi-sexuality with sensitivity. I loved the way she has woven the relationship between friends, frenemies, their secrets and heartbreaks–all the drama of middle-school brought out in the perfect proportion. There are a lot of funny moments despite the complex topic which is being highlighted.
The positive and accepting tone of this book made this a wonderful read. Just a word of caution–remember it is a Middle-Grade fiction, so don’t judge the over-supportive and idealized society they are living in. Read it as a middle-grader and you are bound to enjoy this story.
Do I recommend Star-Crossed?
One of my favourite quotes –
“How do you know if you like someone because you really do like that person, or if you like him only because you think you’re supposed to?”
Wordsopedia rating 5/5
|Title: Star-Crossed||Author: Barbara Dee|
|Publisher: Aladdin||Publication date: March 14th 2017|
|Genre: Fiction–Middle Grade||Format: Hardcover|
|ISBN: 9781481478489||No. of Pages: 277|
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About the Author
Barbara Dee is the author of eleven middle grade novels published by Simon & Schuster, including MY LIFE IN THE FISH TANK (2020), MAYBE HE JUST LIKES YOU (2019), EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT YOU (2018), HALFWAY NORMAL (2017) and STAR-CROSSED (2017). Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including the Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, the Bank Street Best Children’s Books, and Project Lit. Barbara lives with her family, their sweet rescue dog Ripley, and naughty cat Luna, in Westchester County, NY.
Get in touch with the author on her website.