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Every Soul a Star

Review

Every Soul a Star

The lives of three very different teenagers intersect during a rare and total solar eclipse in this utterly lovely novel by acclaimed children’s author Wendy Mass.

Ally is a bright, self-confident, homeschooled young teen who loves her life just as it is. She and her brother Kenny help their parents run their beautiful and remote Moon Shadow campground site in the “Middle of Nowhere, USA,” where Ally knows “every tree and every rock and which foxes are friendly and which aren’t.” In a pouch around her neck, Ally (whose real name happens to be Alpha) wears a meteorite that was given to her by her beloved grandfather --- she loves the sky just as much as he did. Ally, Kenny and their parents have spent the past decade readying themselves for the onslaught of thousands of visitors who will descend on their campground in a few days, when Moon Shadow will be the very best place on Earth to view a once-in-a-century total solar eclipse.

Bree --- beautiful, popular and destined to be a model --- has always suspected she was switched at birth. Bree’s parents are astrophysicists; her 11-year-old sister Melanie happily turns cartwheels in public, is unconcerned about being cool, and actually likes watching PBS documentaries. In Bree’s estimate, in a family that is proudly vanilla, she is “peanut butter rocky road with multicolored sprinkles, hot fudge, and a cherry on top.” Except of course, she would never actually eat something like that --- it would just go straight to her thighs.

Lonely, chubby Jack has failed Mr. Silver’s science class. Instead of making him take a science class over the summer, Mr. Silver offers him the chance to be his assistant on an eclipse-viewing trip to the Moon Shadow campground. Jack has no idea why he was picked --- his strengths lie in art and his ability to fly during lucid dreaming (a trick he picked up from one of his many stepfathers); he is certainly no avid camper and doesn’t know a thing about astronomy. But anything has to be better than taking a science class during the summer, and so he reluctantly signs on for the eclipse tour.

Ally and Bree are stunned to learn that their families are essentially going to be trading places: Ally’s family is moving to “civilization” to expose the (very reluctant) kids to new cultural experiences, and Bree’s family will be taking their place in running the campground so that Bree’s parents can conduct their astrophysical research from Moon Shadow. The horrified girls decide to work together to foil their parents’ plans while preparing for the eclipse and the onslaught of visitors it will bring to the campground.

The story is told in turns by Ally, Bree and Jack; to the author’s credit, each character’s voice rings true and is equally compelling. Minor characters, especially Ally’s kid brother Kenny, Bree’s sister Melanie, and Ally’s childhood friend (and possible crush) Ryan are also interesting and believable, almost worthy of books of their own. The adults and their actions provide a plot and backdrop to the story without intruding too much into the daily lives of the teens.

The sky --- the stars, the sun, the moon, the eclipse --- really forms another, absolutely fascinating character in the story. It is impossible not to come away with a greater appreciation of eclipses and astronomy in general after reading this book. Wendy Mass is able to distill scientific knowledge for the lay reader in a way that enhances the narrative without slowing down the pace of the novel. A narrative thread running through the story points to the great contributions that amateur astronomers (yes, even kids!) can make to the advancement of the science.

EVERY SOUL A STAR is a great book for any young reader interested in astronomy or simply looking for a good read, and is a worthy addition to Wendy Mass’s previous works, which includes the ALA Schneider Family Award winner A MANGO-SHAPED SPACE, JEREMY FINK AND THE MEANING OF LIFE, LEAP DAYand HEAVEN LOOKS A LOT LIKE THE MALL.

Reviewed by Usha Reynolds on September 1, 2009

Every Soul a Star
by Wendy Mass

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2009
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316002577
  • ISBN-13: 9780316002578