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What: Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner

Who: Candlewick Press

When: April 16th 2019

How: A copy of this novel was provided by Candlewick Press for review via NetGalley.

Sam Jones and Zoe Miller have one thing in common: they both want an escape from reality. Loner Sam flies under the radar at school and walks on eggshells at home to manage her mom’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, wondering how she can ever leave to pursue her dream of studying aerospace engineering. Popular, people-pleasing Zoe puts up walls so no one can see her true self: the girl who was abandoned as an infant, whose adoptive mother has cancer, and whose disabled brother is being sent away to live in a facility. When an unexpected encounter results in the girls’ exchanging phone numbers, they forge a connection through text messages that expands into a private universe they call Starworld. In Starworld, they find hilarious adventures, kindness and understanding, and the magic of being seen for who they really are. But when Sam’s feelings for Zoe turn into something more, will the universe they’ve built survive the inevitable explosion?

The first you thing you should probably know about Starworld is that it’s not an f/f romance. It’s not exactly a spoiler since the blurb describes Sam falling in love with Zoe as an explosion and I don’t think requited love is ever described as an explosion. So if you’re wanting an f/f romance then Starworld probably isn’t the book for you.

However, if you’re looking for a book where the most important relationship to both main characters is their friendship with one another than Starworld IS for you. Because Starworld is all about the friendship between Sam and Zoe, even if it results in Sam falling for Zoe romantically. They still value their friendship more than almost anything else, and it was so heart-warming to read about. A friendship can be the thing that keeps you going, and it can be the most important relationship in your life, as well. So I absolutely adored that representation in Starworld because I think friendships are too often sidelined in favour of romantic connections.

Both Sam and Zoe narrate Starworld and their voices and lives are incredibly different. I was never once confused as to whose chapters I was reading, which I guess is not as common in books that are co-authored, but even so it’s still a feat to neatly separate two narrators. What surprises me is that I didn’t prefer one character over the other, which is something that normally happens when I read a book with more than one narrator. But when reading Starworld I never felt like rushing one character’s chapters so I could get back to the world of the other. The only time I ever felt that way was when one chapter would leave off just before something huge was going to happen, which is not so much about the characters themselves, but more about me wanting to know what was going to happen next.

The story of Starworld focussed a lot on what was going on in the private lives of Zoe and Sam. I suppose Starworld was a very character driven story as the plot mainly revolved around what was happening to Sam and Zoe and the people around them, rather than any one huge event. To be honest, I liked this a lot. I loved getting to know Sam and Zoe more completely than some books allow a reader to get to know the main characters. They felt like such real people, and I think that is the best aspect of this novel. That Sam and Zoe had lives just like the rest of us, and they certainly weren’t perfect lives. The girls sometimes did and said the wrong thing, and they struggled with change. I loved their imperfections because it made them feel more human, and made me feel more for them in general.

The only real downfall of this book was Starworld itself. I thought it was going to be super magical and feature more heavily than it did. It turned out to be a world Sam and Zoe created via text using the star signs *like this*. I suppose if I had known what Starworld was going to be like before I started Starworld I think I would have been more on board. But as it was I expecting Starworld to be a little, well, more. I still think it was lovely, and it was beautiful how much Starworld meant to Zoe and Sam, and how it provided an escape and how they found themselves there.

All in all, Starworld was a lovely book. It was quiet and real. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a strong character driven story with a focus on friendship and how that can pull you through some of the hardest moments in life.

© 2019, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

trigger warning

use of ableist language, absent parent, adopted main character (abandoned at fire station), disabled sibling who moved to live in supported housing, parent with OCD, bullying, main character with anxiety, reference to death of infant sibling

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Posted on: April 26, 2019 • By: Chiara

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