Review: The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum


Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.

One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.

Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .

In K. Ancrum’s signature poetic style, this slow-burn romance will have you savoring every page.

RATING: ☆★☆★

I finished this book and wandered downstairs in a dream, my head spinning, but acutely, achingly conscious that I was alive and young. A wild desire to go outside and lay under the cold of the stars gripped me, and that moment, seemingly ordinary, felt utterly surreal. The obscure unreality of it all expanded until it blotted out all else: nothing mattered, problems were futile, the planets spun, life went on, and I was my own celestial being.

Look, I’m just a simple girl with a highly detailed and romanticized infatuation with SPACE and FICTIONAL CHARACTERS that haunts her dreams at night…and this book just knew EXACTLY where to push!

So, what’s this book about?

In a life littered with questionable decisions, Ryann Bird wondered if, by trying to befriend Alexandria Macallough, she was doing the most foolish thing she’d ever done. It seemed, nonetheless, outside Ryann’s capabilities to let Alexandria go. Alexandria, who was the sole guardian of her brother and her nephew, could already feel the weight of her responsibilities like a boulder on her back—and her initial exposure to Alexandria’s company had entirely failed to convince her this friendship was a thing to be relished.

Alexandria’s mother was one of the young female volunteers for a one-way trip into space that was sponsored by a private company called SCOUT. For them, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ascend to the heights of human knowledge with the fruits of their labor clutched firmly in their hands. But for Alexandria, it was a decision that dogged her all her life.

Since she could remember, Alexandria sits on the rooftop of her house every night, hoping to catch radio transmissions from her mother—it was her one remaining point of reference and she tenaciously clung to it. When Ryann’s attempts at nudging Alexandria, in her own sledgehammer way, towards friendship yield an unfortunate accident in which Alexandria is injured, she takes on the responsibility of recording transmissions in Alexandria’s absence. Ryann’s enthusiastic labor adds the first gold star to her less-than-shining record, and Alexandria begins to warm up to her, timidly at first but at last triumphantly. Especially when Ryann suggests they break into SCOUT and retrieve the transmissions her mother sent throughout the years.

As far as questionable decisions go, this might just be Ryann’s best one yet.

Ancrum has quickly established herself as a writer you can trust to deliver a great read. I absolutely loved The Wicker King—the memory of it still fills me with a strange, tremulous sadness. It has been the sweetest, purest relief to read this book and discover that Jack, August and Rina—who play a cameo role in this book—no longer bear their past burdens and that they have a child of their own who grew up a stranger to the loneliness and sorrow they were oh-so-familiar with in their teenage years.

This time, Ancrum has returned with a potently affecting novel which presents unexpectedly fresh plotting and genuine repartee and deftly blends the splendor of nostalgia, the wrath of youth, and the bright glimpse into the lit low-lit corners of courage with whole passages of unbearably tender musings on space and the universe that curl within sentences like cats insouciantly licking their paws.

Although the unforced pace drags a bit and it takes a while before the story’s tone settles into a groove, what makes this book so utterly arresting is the author’s voice—sharp, sly, and full of heart—and her tremendous ability to render her characters in bold strokes and poignant nuances. I really relished the succinct turns of phrase and startingly razor-sharp insights that often pin a feeling in place, and which have become so characteristic of Ancrum’s writing. Plus, the author’s unrepentant love for all things space effortlessly shines through. The Weight of the Stars is the kind of book that reminds you of the eager chatter, the stifled laughter and the buzz and bristle of nights when you stayed up late with your friends discussing Big Concepts like life and the universe, pondering your tiny modicum of existence and its relation to the grander web of things, and fell asleep with your mind gently humming.

Ryann Bird (iconically described by one of her friends as “delightfully butch” and “super ripped”) is a volatile, complicated, and compellingly flawed character, and the author gives her a savage yet sympathetic voice that never once strays into disharmony. Like Alexandria, it took a few pages for me to sweeten my disposition towards her. Ryann, with her inexorable need to help people whose minds are unquiet, who are trapped in their own labyrinths, or stranded on cracking ice, is the girl who has always attacked the world, who has approached every opportunity as the chance to challenge for dominance, and win. Alexandria saw herself in Ryann’s eyes. Alexandria who sublimated her anger toward SCOUT and her parents into her dealings with the rest of the world, who went about in her armor every day and showed the blades of her swords to all, the whole world was the enemy. There’s a deep gorge that marks where her family’s world split, where the foundations tore apart: a breakage that started when her mother shrugged off earthly bounds and chose space instead, and grew wider with an emotionally neglectful father who bequeathed the weight of his blame and resentment to his daughter.

The Weight of the Stars, ultimately, is about young people pedaling through life without training wheels, rushing towards the future as fast as they can, hands stretched in front of them grasping for the unknown. Young people who—instead of docilly accepting the road they had been thrust on and the decisions they hadn’t made but were, nonetheless, forced to take the brunt of—throw themselves at their traumas and struggles, never slowing down, or stuttering to a halt to gain balance. They took the speed and aimed it down and took the power their rage gave them and owned it. The result is a novel which is far from candy-coated, and which packs some serious substance, with each of the characters having a weight pressing on their souls and each trying to doll their way out from under it.

The Weight of the Stars is also about friendships—the kind that loosen the frigid knot of fear and insecurities inside you and shake a semblance of life back into you, that reach over and wake you to the understanding of your own strength and potential, like having someone wipe away a layer of sand to reveal words written on the path before you. That comfiness of being understood is evident in every little look and move between Ryann and Alexandria. Ryann so obviously saw past Alexandria’s pride to the deeper emotions, and Alexandria stripped Ryann to her skin and put her life into a new context, one where things that have never been fathomable to Ryann make sudden and absolute sense: a chance to see more of the world than most people have written of it. The novel treats us to a slow-burning romance between the two girls and an ending that puts so much heart in the reader.

I honestly don’t know how else to say, “I fucking loved this book and you should read it as well,” but yeah, I did and you should.

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