Book Review: Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

Every Soul a Star cover

Every Soul a Star
by Wendy Mass
Goodreads Amazon
Series: no
Release date: October 1st 2008
Rating: my students were right

"Now, in five hours, barring the end of the world, the moon will obliterate the sun. On the one hand I am so excited I can barely think straight. On the other, the eclipse means that everything will start happening really quickly."

I teach seventh grade and during lunch on Wednesdays I run a Middle School Book Club, which may be the most awesome activity ever.  Two of the girls in the group relentlessly mentioned this book every week.  "Have you read it yet? Have you read it yet?  Have you read it yet?" It took me awhile to get to but I finally did read it. There is something exciting about seeing books resonate with the age group with which it is intended so I had pretty high expectations for this book which for the most part it lived up to.

It is the story, told in three alternate voices, of three middle school students whose lives intersect with a solar eclipse. The main characters Ally, Bree, and Jack all have clear and separate voices.  This is important to me because I find almost nothing more annoying then losing track of who is narrating because the author doesn't vary the voice.  The character also acted age appropriately. 

"I am not plain or average or -god forbid- vanilla.  I am peanut butter rocky road with multicolored sprinkles, hot fudge, and a cherry on top. Not that I would ever eat such a thing, because it would go right to my thighs."

Let's take a moment to talk about Bree.  I found her to be the most challenging character to care about and root for.  She is "that girl" in middle school and high school who has embraced and been entrapped by the ideals of popularity and the social norms that we hold ourself to at that age.  It is a realistic depiction but honestly making someone who is shallow (and proud of it) sympathetic is difficult.  I felt as if I was holding myself back from the character almost the whole time that I was reading. 

The science aspect of the story seemed well researched (not my area of expertise but there is a bibliography at the end of the book so sources are cited) but was not at all heavy handed. 

"My heart is pounding so fast I bet everyone can hear it, even over the din of voices. There's not sign of the approaching moon in the bright sky. An eclipse can only happen when the moon is in the new moon phase, when we can't see the sun reflecting off of it. So it's like looking for something invisible."

I really appreciated the nuanced examination of what we can change about ourselves and our life situations and what we should we should accept.  Pretty big themes for middle schoolers and yet Wendy Mass managed make the point delicately without being preachy or losing the fun.

All in all I found this book sweet, satisfying, and compulsively readable (read it in one sitting). And I love the last lines of the book.

From Goodreads:
And as streams of light fan out behind the darkened sun like the wings of a butterfly, I realize that I never saw real beauty until now.

At Moon Shadow, an isolated campground, thousands have gathered to catch a glimpse of a rare and extraordinary total eclipse of the sun. It's also where three lives are about to be changed forever:

Ally likes the simple things in life--labyrinths, star-gazing, and comet-hunting. Her home, the Moon Shadow campground, is a part of who she is, and she refuses to imagine it any other way.

Popular and gorgeous (everybody says so), Bree is a future homecoming queen for sure. Bree wears her beauty like a suit of armor. But what is she trying to hide?

Overweight and awkward, Jack is used to spending a lot of time alone. But when opportunity knocks, he finds himself in situations he never would have imagined and making friends in the most unexpected situations.

Told from three distinct voices and perspectives, Wendy Mass weaves an intricate and compelling story about strangers coming together, unlikely friendships, and finding one's place in the universe.