This whole book is so deeply about friendship, heartaches, and imaginary escapes.
And oops, yes that would be my heart flinging itself into the void while weeping all the way. 😭 Honestly — I’m still processing how I feel about this. It’s been a few days, and my heart feels sore. But I still also understand that this was a small glimpse through a messy cracked window into two girls’ lives. I appreciate that.
It’s a soft book, slow and quiet and thoughtful. Absolutely funny at times too! It has families with problematic dynamics, intimate friendships, stolen moments for escapism into fantasy worlds, messages about loss and growing up. And it kinda broke me at the end.
*:·ﾟ✧ THE STORY IT TOLD *:·ﾟ✧
Basically this is the story of two girls, Sam and Zoe, who seem to be totally different sorts of people — but the accidentally connect and end up becoming each other’s safe space. Particularly through their (basically roleplay) fantasyworld: STARWORLD. Aka let’s talk about escapism. 🤗I really appreciated the book tackling that because I feel like so so many teens rely heavily on escapism, especially during highschool. My way of escaping was always writing my own fantasy stories. So like, is this book relatable content??? Yes. Yes it is.
Zoe and Sam text each other these silly, fun things about flying to the stars on a dragon who loves eating hot sauce. They go back and forth. They accidentally tumble into telling secrets to each other. When their lives crumble, they have their unlikely friendship. And they have Starworld.
And I think the core of the book was that: it’s ok to need a safe place, a safe person, while you gather the strength to climb your own mountains. You don’t have to be alone.
*:·ﾟ✧ FRIENDSHIP VS ROMANCE *:·ﾟ✧
Ok so truly this book is about friendship. Don’t go in expecting a focus on f/f romance (there is queer content though and Sam is questioning). And while I kiiinda wanted more romance, I also think it’s important for YA to emphasis and value friendships.
*:·ﾟ✧ SAM & ZOE *:·ﾟ✧
Ahh I loved them BOTH and how they clicked in such unexpected ways. They are fierce and wonderful girls!
➢ SAM: She’s the antisocial geek the loner, an incredible artist and mathematician with a cynical outlook on life. She has exactly one friend (Will) and she wants to design rocks after she finishes highschool. She’s queer-questioning too. But she feels like she’ll never be able to leave home because her mum has severe OCD, and Sam is trying to help her, protect her, and cover for her all at once. Sam’s basically taken on the burden of her mum’s illness and it’s ruining them both.
➢ ZOE: Basically Miss Perfect, who is the sweetheart of school. So kind! So nice! Just…nice! But inside Zoe is a hot MESS because she has severe rejection issues she’s working through from being adopted and she has zero self-worth and is swallowed by her guilt of loving her adopted family…but wanting to know about her birth mother. And her life is cracking to pieces because her adopted-mum has cancer and then Zoe’s 15yo extremely disabled brother is being considered for a disability-needs-home. Aka, he will be leaving. Aka, Zoe is freaked out that they’re “tossing him out” because he’s too much work. It’s triggering all her anxiety AND she’s so upset and worried about her brother.
And Sam and her friendship just becomes this no-judgement safe zone. They have messy families, uncertain futures, and they both ache to be seen for who they truly are.
Just want to shout out to the writing for being a thorough DELIGHT. The dialogue had a wondrous flow and the whole book just made me want to keep devouring chapter after chapter. Sam and Zoe had really different voices, personalities, and reactions to things and…they were just so *clenches fist* so so relatable and loveable despite being utter disasters.
*:·ﾟ✧ MENTAL HEALTH & DISABILITY REP *:·ﾟ✧
Ok YES I was nervous about reading potentially bad rep (which is common in books grr) but I think, overall, Starworld did a good job. I can’t speak from personal experiences of having OCD or a very severe nonverbal disability — but I do fit at different places on the mental illness/disability spectrum, hence I had a deep interest in reading this. 👀
I definitely broke for the disability rep — it was loving! It was hard to read about a family giving up their son, but their mum had cancer (not in remission) and they were breaking apart and not giving their disabled son the best quality life they could. It destroyed them to feel like the “failed” him. So there’s no “oh he’s too hard, we’re tossing him out” feels here. It was really well handled, I felt. Still made me WANNA CRY.
The OCD rep…gahhh. I had problems with it, particularly how it felt Sam blamed her mum for being OCD. But a kid shouldn’t have to take care of their parents’ burdens (the mum needed help/counselling), but I do find it tough reading about neurotypicals being all “I’m shouldering this burden 🙄of my mentally ill family member.” Because just…can we not.
*:·ﾟ✧ OVERALL WHAT DID I THINK? *:·ﾟ✧
I really liked it and it made me super emotional so many times!! The ending left me unevenly frustrated, but, after thinking about it, I do think the story it told was important still. It’s a tale that’s equally soft and sad, but also whimsical and special. It felt so real, with all the family issues and the school-stresses and the intricacies of newly formed, but super strong, friendships.
It’s about friends who teach each other to be brave.
thank you to Walker Books AUS for the ARC. Starworld is out July 1st!
GOODREADS | BOOK DEPOSITORY | AMAZON | BOOKTOPIA | Walker Books | ★★★★☆
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?
| WHAT DO YOU THINK |
tell me another YA book you love that has a focus on friendship? is this one on your TBR? do you read a lot of contemporary?