Friday, October 12, 2012

Review: Keeping Safe the Stars

Keeping Safe the Stars
By Sheila O'Connor
Expected publication October 11, 2012 by Dutton Juvenile

The Stars have always been independent and self-reliant with oldest sibling Pride (or Kathleen to strangers) leading the way. But when their grandfather Old Finn gets sick, Pride begins to worry that they might need help. Will the Stars find a way to keep themselves safe and together?

Being the new Legendary Empress of Tween, I need to read more middle-grade novels. I mean, I already read quite a few (and definitely more than my colleagues) but, more often, I find myself gravitating to young adult. But, since I'll be doing the tween collection development and my colleagues will generally refer these reader's advisory questions to me, I'll be making a concerted effort to read more middle-grade novels. The blurb for this caught my eye. The book has already received two starred reviews, moving it even more into my sights. I have sort of mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, it's quite a moving and charming story, especially when one focuses on the relationships between the three siblings. They relate to each other and the outside world in very realistic ways. Though at first it wasn't clear that Baby was a boy, each Star has their own distinct personality and way of looking at the world. All three are tested when Old Finn takes ill and they are left to their own devices. While I didn't completely fall in love with Pride, I thought she was an excellent choice of narrator and one to whom tweens will easily relate. Similarly, I enjoyed the backstory O'Connor gave the family - a commune childhood, deceased parents, a stubborn and passionate grandfather. However, I didn't find the book completely without fault. Though I haven't yet read it, I've seen some of the discussion around Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker and I feel like the issue of suspension of disbelief that some people are having with that title was at play for me in this book. I had a really hard time believing that the course of events as plotted in the novel would play out as it did, with no intervention from the secondary characters. Additionally, the book takes place in 1972, but I don't really see this as essential to the story. Yes, it makes the children's commune lifestyle more believable and gives Old Finn, as well as many of the other adults in the story, something bigger than their own lives to focus on. It just doesn't seem to add much to the novel. Overall, the story has its charms, but its biggest strength is the hard-headed and loving family at its center.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

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