Happy MMGM, guys!
Today, I'm reviewing Connect the Stars by Marisa de Los Santos and David Teague.
The two authors of Saving Lucas Biggs, have written a thoughtful look at how two young teens take part in a wilderness trek to expand their horizons, and end up learning more about themselves than they could have ever imagined.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 22nd 2015 by HarperCollins
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
When thirteen-year-olds Aaron and Audrey meet at a wilderness camp in the desert, they think their quirks are enough to prevent them from ever having friends. But as they trek through the challenging and unforgiving landscape, they learn that they each have what it takes to make the other whole.
Luminous and clever, Connect the Stars has Marisa de los Santos and David Teague’s trademark beautiful prose, delicate humor, swooping emotions, and keen middle grade friendships. This novel takes on the hefty topics of the day—bullying, understanding where you fit in, and learning to live with physical and mental challenges—all in a joyous adventure kids will love!
However, I soon realized that Marisa de los Santos and David Teague had written a story that was more than just an adventure story. Told in alternating points-of-view, Aaron and Audrey are two thirteen-year-old students who don't quite fit into their respective schools. Aaron is an odd-man-out because his eidteic memory allows him to recite skills but without meaning, and Audrey has difficulty trusting people, because of her ability to figure out when a person is lying.
So the two of them are sent to attend a six-week wilderness camp, in the hopes of expanding their horizons. However, they soon learn that not only do they have a lot to offer those around them, they also learn how to work better in groups, and there are those who appreciate them.
What's great about Connect the Stars, is that it's a book that emphasizes both embracing one's unique attributes, and also how to use those attributes to work in a group and find those who appreciate them. Both Aaron and Audrey go into the camp with low expectations on what they can accomplish, and quickly learn that they're up to incredible challenges, both separately and in a team.
Along the way, they also learn the value of their skills, and how to utilize those skills to in a way that help them connect with those around them. E.g. Rather than judge others for lying, Audrey - through the help of her new friends - learns that people may actually lie for a reason, and some kindness and understanding can help better understand those motives.
Similarly, while Aaron learns to both utilize his photographic memory for the trip, but also dually shows those around him how useful his seemingly random facts can be - e.g. it helps all of them get out of a pretty dangerous spot later on. It's a nice nod to the idea to not judge a book by its cover, and Santos and Teague convey that lesson without sounding preachy or overbearing.
My one quibble with the book was that there were aspects of the story that were slightly hard to believe - e.g. a subplot involving a teenaged girl being allowed to go off on her own. While Santos and Teague do make it a point to add accountability later on in the book, I felt like the subtlety of that acknowledgement might make some parents and educators raise their eyebrows a little.
However, I don't really think that younger readers will notice these issues. Moveover, by emphasizing the adventures experienced by Aaron and Audrey, verses the more adult aspects of the book, Santos and Teague are doing a nice job of underlying the idea that this is an adventure story focused for young teens growing into who they're meant to be. .
Buth Aaron and Audrey join the wilderness with the hopes of learning more about themselves - which they do -but they also come out of their adventure with the knowledge that there are those who like them, and those who appreciate the contributions that they have to offer. It's an important lesson for all younger readers who are struggling to define their identity, and I'm so pleased that I have this book to share.
Highly recommend for all readers, full stop.