Review: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake


Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn’t help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend and best friend since childhood, Charlie.

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

RATING: ☆★☆★☆

Girl Made of Stars is the kind of story that pinches and punches and bites—unflinching and powerful. The kind of story that carves you open with the truth and leaves your heart sour, angry at the world and so awful at holding all of it within your own skin that the tidal wave of your emotions threatens to drag you out to the lightless depths of the sea and drown you. The kind of story that leaves you in a trance after you’re finished. The one that just won’t let you go for days.

So what is this book about?

Mara, a bisexual high school junior, shares a bond strong enough to transcend words with her twin brother, Owen. When Owen is accused of raping his girlfriend—one of Mara’s best friends—the world as she knew it is left undone, those accusations turning into thorns snagging Mara’s skin and clothes and landing like a boulder upon her heart.

Mara lingers at the intersection between believing her brother in his insistence on being innocent and always believing the survivor—her heart careening between the two and grasping at the words that would distill the truth down and weed out all the things that did not fit. Adding to the mottled mess of truth and lies in Mara’s head is her classmates and family, including her fiercely feminist mother, who publicly sided with Owen. Mara’s inner conflict is also threaded with the memory of her own past trauma—one that she’s never confessed and every time she tried to leave behind, it only caught fire and lit a dozen more.

Around this tragedy runs an unrelenting plot that brings into sharp, brutal relief a raw and unvarnished look at victim blaming, consent, male privilege and the tendencies of many to mock and underestimate a pain they haven’t endured. There is so much truth, pain and humanity in this book. This is a book that truly digs in and exposes human selfishness, flaws, misconceptions, and tendencies—leaving questions that will land too hard for you to catch them.

Girl Made of Stars is a powerful tale of betrayal and a vital primer on rape culture that will make you want to look away. But we can’t. If we don’t look, we are just more people in the cyclical machine, keeping rape culture churning through our society. It’s a story that provocatively and effectively illustrates how hopeless it may seem to fight something so vast and too terrifying to contemplate. How ridiculous it may seem to believe you can win—especially that what often follows such a tragedy is a prolonged, degrading, and oftentimes vain process.

Mara’s moral struggle was indicative of how easy it can be to sink beneath the lie of what everyone else upholds and how difficult it can be to break free of that belief system which strangles everyone, and side with whom she truly believes in. But soon she realizes that sexual assault is not a ghost that would go silent if only you found the right way to quiet it, and eventually all that wondering, all that uncertainty gets crowded out, sharpening the truth of how little Mara knew her brother to account for all of him, and the cruciality of doing the right thing.

Girl Made of Stars also highlights how being a survivor is being both other than and more than what everyone else will assume you are. That hope is a language you may still be learning – a thing you may stammer and halt through, but each day, you will find new language for your survival and it will sing of your strength.

Also central to Mara’s narrative is her relationship with Charlie, her (ex)girlfriend, who represents a nuanced and affecting depiction of a teen who identifies as non-binary. I love their relationship so much. I love how it was rooted in a deep, honest friendship of the unshakable kind, a friendship that could be busted nearly to breaking and come back stronger than before. I love how they acknowledged their flaws and how it affected their relationship and how they were both working on becoming better versions of themselves. It was all very authentic and raw and I really loved it.

“Even girls made of stars are captives, bound at the wrists and traded like property. Even girls made of stars aren’t asked, aren’t believed, aren’t considered worth the effort unless they can offer something in return.
Even girls made of stars buy into those lies sometimes.” 

Some books shape you in so many different ways. Some books change you so intrinsically that you couldn’t erase their influence on you anymore then you could change your DNA.

Girl Made of Stars is one of those books.

TW: rape, sexual assault, victim blaming, anxiety and panic attacks.

16 thoughts on “Review: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

  1. Not only does this sound like an important and beautiful read, but your review is excellent, as well! Your writing is so straightforward and inspiring. Why can’t I be this good?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your review. Well, love doesn’t really do it justice, actually. This review was so honest and heartbreaking. Now I really want to read this book. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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