Title: Lost Stars (2016)
Author: Lisa Selin Davis
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 272 pages
Release Date: October 16, 2016
In the aftermath of her older sister’s death, sixteen-year-old Carrie is taken under the wings of her sister’s friends, and finds herself forsaking the science nerds of her former life and slipping into a daze of cheap beer and recreational drugs. Carrie – a talented guitar player and obsessive tracker of the coming Vira comet – is partying hard and fooling around with boys she doesn’t even like, even though she’s desperate for a boyfriend.
Her mother, enveloped by grief at the loss of her eldest child, has retreated to a monastery in the Catskills that requires a vow of silence. With her family splintered apart, Carrie is overcome at times by uncontrollable rages and her father decides to send her to a boot camp for wayward teens. Compounding the shame, and to her horror, she is forced to wear work boots and a hard hat – boy poison.
Then she meets Dean, a fellow musician and refugee from his own dark past. Throughout the summer Carrie learns more about Dean, about her sister’s death, about her own family’s past, and about herself…as well as about the Bee Gees, disco and the difference between wood and sheet-rock screws. Through love, music and her precious comet – and no small help from Lou Reed – Carrie fumbles her way through the complex web of tragedies and misunderstandings, to the heart of who she is and who she wants to be.
Despite the really beautiful cover and the potentially heartbreaking premise, Lost Stars did not engage me at all. I actually picked it up multiple times over a number of weeks, waiting for that moment of utter attention to strike, but after perhaps the fifth time I just gave up because it just never happened. Had this not been a review book, unfortunately, I probably would’ve DNFed it pretty early on.
Set in the 1980s, Lost Stars is the story of Carrie, a teenage girl living in the aftermath of a family tragedy. Life for Carrie is difficult: her mother has taken off to a meditative retreat; her relationship with her remaining sister is strained; her friends don’t seem to really care for her; she’s grief-stricken and lonely after the older sister that she looked up to died:
“Before Ginny died, that was how it felt when I got upset: like I was about to throw up. Ginny used to be the one to talk me down, to stand at the door of my room and say, softly, “Caraway, take a deep breath, come here, hold my hand.”
Carrie was incredibly hard to like. She was angry and bitter, always putting herself (and her feelings) first before everybody else. She was also oftentimes needlessly cruel to others and hell-bent on self-destruction. After Ginny’s death, she took on the role of their family’s rebellious child — smoking, getting drunk, doing drugs — which was frustrating to see.
Lost Stars touched on mental illness — specifically impulse control disorder, I believe — but I can’t say that I loved it. Obviously I was very disconnected from the characters and could’ve very easily read it wrong, but I felt like the romance acted as a bit of a quick-fix to it, and given that I also didn’t really have a very strong grasp on Dean’s character, it just didn’t work for me.
“Eventually every star will explode. There’s no getting around it.”
“Maybe they’re not gone, those stars. Maybe they’re just lost. Maybe they’re just trying to find their way home.”
The other characters, unfortunately, also didn’t really work for me. We were introduced to so many people, and I could safely say that even at the end of the book, I still don’t really get who’s who and what their personalities, likes, dislikes, goals and values are. Some I felt like I had a bit more feeling for — Tonya, Lynn — but otherwise they were unremarkable.
What I enjoyed was the motifs — the astrophysics/science talk and the music references left at least some impression on me, and I also really appreciate that the book ended up on a somewhat hopeful note. While things were mostly left up in the air, at least Carrie seemed like she would eventually be happy.
“Real heartbreak, not the kind made only of loneliness and self-hatred, was almost kind of sweet.”
Overall not my kind of book, but also not the most terrible that I’ve read. Also, a final tidbit: this book apparently started as a column for New York Times’ Modern Love and boy, that piece of writing actually pretty good and engaging.
* I received a copy of LOST STARS from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review.
Want to get a copy? Lost Stars is available for AU$19.99 from select retailers.