“[Love] doesn’t need to make sense. It’s like a chemical reaction. It just happens.” — Barbara Dee,
This post may contain spoilers.
This book by Barbara Dee is utterly adorable. I first found out about it while on Tumblr, as detailed on this post back in January, and promptly pre-ordered it. Yes, it’s a middle-grade novel, but any story that positively portrays diversity of any nature (sexuality, race, culture, etc.) gets me excited. Amazon was awesome and delivered the book on the published date about a week ago during a blizzard.
The plot revolves around Mattie, an eighth-grader that loves her English class and is excited about the eighth-grade play, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. She eventually finds herself smitten with Gemma, the girl who has scored the part of Juliet in the play. Through a couple of twists, Mattie ends up playing Romeo and the book follows her coming to terms with not only her crush on her co-lead in the play but also with dealing with secrets from her friends and mean girls.
Most of it sounds like typical eighth-grade drama, and it’s something that I really like about the book. Rather than be cliche, these problems — secrets among friends, acquaintances with mean streaks, crushes — are met by Mattie trying to stay neutral, indecisive, as she tries to figure herself out. She eventually realizes, with the help of her friends, family, and even Gemma, that action is needed rather than wallowing in self-doubt. It’s a wonderful story of gaining confidence in who you are and what you want to be.
Aside from Mattie and Gemma, who were both adorable characters, the side characters were amazingly written as well. Mr. Torres, the teacher and director, probably taught me more about Romeo and Juliet than when I studied it back in school and was one of the most impressive characters to me, what with his support and passion for his students. Lucy and Tessa, Mattie’s best friends, were nearly opposites in personality with Lucy being calm and logical compared to Tessa’s wild energy and boldness, but they worked brilliantly.
Even the characters that were only mentioned a handful of times throughout the novel felt fleshed out. They each had their own little personality quirks, likes and dislikes, thoughts about Romeo and Juliet. And, in the end, they were all allowed to just be eight-graders together.
It was a cute story, a book that I read in a couple of hours, and it did not disappoint. It’s fabulous to see a positive LGBT+ book out there for middle graders!
“Star-Crossed” gets a 5 out of 5 stars.