This week, I'm reviewing Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson.
This is a sweet, thoughtful YA contemporary that helps readers consider their place in the world, and how we can truly become the best version of ourselves when we aren't defined by pre-set expectations.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 29th 2014 by Scholastic Press
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Nothing ever happens in Little, CA. Which is just the way Carter Moon likes it. But when Hollywood arrives to film a movie starring former child star turned PR mess Adam Jakes, everything changes. Carter's town becomes a giant glittery set and, much to her annoyance, everyone is starry-eyed for Adam. Carter seems to be the only girl not falling all over herself to get a glimpse of him. Which apparently makes her perfect for the secret offer of a lifetime: playing the role of Adam's girlfriend while he's in town, to improve his public image, in exchange for a hefty paycheck. Her family really needs the money and so Carters agrees. But it turns out Adam isn't at all who she thought he was.
As they grow closer, their relationship walks a blurry line between what's real and what's fake, and Carter must open her eyes to the scariest of unexplored worlds - her future. Can Carter figure out what she wants out of life AND get the guy? Or are there no Hollywood endings in real life?
However, once I got my copy - thanks, Scholastic! - and started reading, I realized that this was a book with a surprising degree of poignancy and depth. I was genuinely touched by Carter's journey as I was reading, and can't wait for all of you to check this book out.
Things that worked:
Carter's a shy and unassuming high school student in northern California, who likes her life just the way it is. She's not glitzy - and Carter, girl, I completely understand liking khaki - and finds comfort in there being a certain sense of reliability and dependability to her day-to-day life.
Culbertson does a fantastic job of showing just how such a level-headed, mild-mannered (though intelligent!) small-town girl like Carter can be tempted by the glitz and financial benefits of what Adam has to offer, and how that encounter of glitz vs. sensibility can actually begin to change Carter's life in so many different ways.
While I think readers will definitely like watching Carter rebuff Adam at first, I also think that readers will enjoy seeing how Carter intelligently lets her experiences with Adam realize that she might not know everything, and perhaps the Hollywood bad boy does have some things to teach her.
As for secondary characters: Culbertson has written a great, thorough cast of secondary characters full of friends, neighbors and quirks that make me a little jealous that I don't live in Little. I especially appreciated Culberton's positive depictions of Carter's relationships with the females that she meets throughout the book, it's nice to see positive female relationships being reinforced.
Even though the relationship between the two isn't the stuff of fairytales, I liked it so much more because of that fact. This is a true relationship, and I think readers will enjoy it for that reason.
Working through the issues:
While I was definitely moved (and equally frustrated) with Carter's family issues throughout the story, I was most touched by Carter's struggles, as she begins to let Adam's presence positively influence and remind her that there's a bigger world out there.
A lot of her fears about her post-high school life, the feasibility of revisiting her dance career, and even her place in the world, were ones that I've definitely had at that age and ones that I'm sure a lot of readers will have experienced as well.
The fact that Culbertson can so eloquently express those fears with a degree of universality and show us how Carter chooses to deal with them - both rightly and wrongly - is a testament to the strength of her writing and storytelling.
Also, it needs to be said: Culbertson does a great job of showing how both Carter and Adam find the answers to a lot of their issues from unexpected places. It adds a whole other layer to the lessons that Carter and Adam learn from their agreement - especially the idea that people aren't always what they seem.
It's the type of ending which promises even bigger and better things for the future, while also recognizing the emotional maturity that Carter and Adam have developed in the mean time. Readers will definitely come away feeling like they've witnessed a thorough (and beautiful!) character arc, from beginning to end.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
(Though it most definitely is that!)
This is a thoughtful, contemplative look into how each person finds their place in the world, even as they move beyond their original sphere to discover who they truly are and who they're meant to be.
I think that readers will find Carter and Adam relatable and likable. Their struggles with defining themselves, trying to find their place in their mutually respective and chaotic worlds, are probably feelings that readers have had themselves as they've gotten older. Readers will undoubtedly connect with them and feel validated by their journey.
As for me, this is my first Kim Culbertson novel, but it definitely won't be my last. I'm looking forward to seeing what other YA fiction she produces in the future, while going back and checking out what's already out there.
About the author:
She believes books make the world a better place and likes to be on the look out for books she really connects with and loves. Any book she reviews on Goodreads is one of these finds.