Published by Aladdin on March 14th 2017
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Source: The Author
My content rating: MG (Explores sexual orientation but nothing more than kissing in the context of the play is shown)
Mattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play in this Romeo and Juliet inspired novel from the author of Truth or Dare.
Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.
As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.
This book is incredibly adorable and a perfect way to introduce MG readers to the concept of LGBT relationships. Since Mattie herself is unsure of how she feels, it gives the reader permission to be unsure with her, and it eases the MG reader into the idea that Mattie might be having romantic feelings for another girl. Because of that, a relatively simple book becomes powerful.
What Fed My Addiction:
- Slow realization. At the start of this book it’s never even occurred to Mattie that she could be attracted to a girl—after all, she’s just getting over a crush that she had on a boy, and it’s not like she’s been questioning her sexuality her whole life. Because of that, we get to see the whole story from a realistically naive point of view. Mattie is confused at first about what she feels for Gemma. She certainly has no idea how Gemma feels about her. She’s also hesitant to put a name to what she’s feeling, which I think is, once again, realistic. The relationship between Gemma and Mattie is sweet and adorable and hard to define. In other words, it’s perfect.
- Shakespeare! I actually think I’m going to use this book to help teach my kids Romeo and Juliet as part of our homeschooling curriculum because it explains so much about the play but it doesn’t make it feel like you’re learning (the details are all presented as part of the plot and they never feel extraneous or overbearing). This book actually makes Shakespeare seem downright fun! There’s even a list of Shakespearean insults at the back of the book that I know my kids won’t be able to resist. I’m fairly certain that even though my fourteen year old son is a bit above the age range for this book, he’ll still get a lot out of it and still enjoy it. I’ve always loved Shakespeare, so I think this book is a perfect way to help pass that love down!
- Friendships. Mattie’s two best friends, Lucy and Tessa get a lot of time center stage in this book and I loved the way the friendships are portrayed. Not one of them (Mattie included) is perfect, but they obviously love each other and they share the type of friendship that I remember having in middle school, when everything was a bit more dramatic than it needed to be but you had your best friend by your side. I also loved how supportive Tessa and Lucy are of Mattie.
What Left Me Hungry for More:
- Little more? I wish we’d gotten just a little bit more resolution between Gemma and Mattie. There’s a hint of future possibilities for them, but nothing more than that. And I actually think I would have even been okay with that if the moment had been given just a teensy bit more weight. I know that Dee was trying to make this story less about a particular romance than about Mattie’s journey, though, and I definitely respect that. (Still, we all crave that HEA, right?)
- Defense of instalove in Romeo & Juliet. I will say that the book really focuses on the romance of R&J, and Mattie argues for the idea that what Romeo feels is real. I’ve never been a fan of instalove and R&J is no exception to that (even though I love the play overall), so I had a hard time getting on board with Mattie’s arguments. But since she was sort of using the play to process her own emotions, I can see how she’d want to see the romantic side of the story rather than the more tragic side (plus, it fits with a MG theme a lot better).
Star-Crossed is a sweet story of self-discovery amidst the chaos of middle school theatrics. I struggled with rating this one because there are so many fantastic aspects to the book , but I finally settled on 4/5 stars. No, 4.5. No, 4. No … Okay 4, but seriously close to 4.5.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Take a look at Dee’s Top Ten Addictions!
I love the fact that she loves Radiohead so much that she had to put it in there twice, even though that ended up making her use a tie for the last one. It’s not like she was out of ideas—she just really adores Radiohead. 🙂
About the Author
Barbara Dee is the author of seven middle grade novels all published by Simon & Schuster, including TRUTH OR DARE (Sept. 2016) and STAR–CROSSED(March 2017). Her next middle grade novel, HALFWAY NORMAL, will publish September 5, 2017. Barbara is one of the founders and directors of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. She lives with her family in Westchester County, New York.