Book Review: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Published by HMH on May 15th, 2018
Genres: contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
"I need Owen to explain this. Because yes, I do know that Owen would never do that, but I also know Hannah would never lie about something like that."

Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara's friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn't know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn't help that things have been strained with her ex and best friend since childhood, Charlie.

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

I'm writing this review in January and I don't know if I'll be recovered by the time this review goes up. This book absolutely gutted me. Like I was sobbing in my bed at midnight, hoping I wouldn't wake anyone up. This book was incredibly difficult for me to read for multiple reasons. One: I was a victim of sexual assault twice. One by a classmate in high school & once in my early 20's by a man I had known since I was six. Two: My brother is Owen's age and while he does have his issues, I couldn't imagine him ever hurting a girl and the idea that he could twisted my stomach into knots As a sister this book raised so many questions for me. As a victim of sexual assault, it raised even more questions. My heart ached for Hannah & for Mara. I could see myself in both of their positions. The way Mara's family automatically believed Owen's version of the story bothered me. I couldn't believe that they thought Hannah would make something like this up. I understand wanting to believe your son & brother would never hurt anyone, but blind loyalty is insane. I sure don't think I would be able to blindly trust that my brother didn't do this. It would be incredibly hard, but I think my loyalty would align with the victim And for the most part, that's where Mara's loyalty stayed. That caused some problems with her once close family. Her mother, in particular refused to believe that Owen could have done this horrible thing. Her father actually seemed to be a lot more neutral on the subject. Owen held steadfast in his innocence. I wasn't surprised by that, but it did make me angry. I wanted Owen to admit his crime. Hannah deserved that. His family deserved that. Yet, he kept his mouth shut.
"So...what do we do?" Mara 
"What do you mean?" 
"I mean what do we do? What's going to happen to Owen? And Hannah...we can't just not listen to her. You've always said we have to listen to girls no matter-" 
"He's ours Mara. He's my son. And we love him. That's what we do." 
I wasn't sure how Mara's ex was going to play into all of this, but it turned out she was also friends with Hannah. I was so excited that Mara was bisexual. I love that we're finally getting a lot more bisexual representation in YA. I've only been out for about ten years, but I had known for at least 4 years prior to that. But more on Charlie later. I loved that Mara held meetings and did a monthly newspaper called Empower. I would have loved to have been a part of that in school. Her plans to challenge the sexist dress code go out the window when Hannah makes her accusation. I know I touched on this earlier, but the waves of responses after Hannah tells people what happened made me so angry. Most of them were on Team Owen, which means they thought she was lying about what happened. When a girl gets raped society says:
"Oh, well look at what she's wearing." 
"She's had sex before, so it's not rape."
"She's slept with him before, so it's not rape."
"She shouldn't have been drinking."
"She can't change her mind halfway through."
Among other despicable things. When a guy is accused of rape, the responses are quite different.
"He's a good kid."
"He's an athlete." 
"He's from a good family."
"He's well liked."
"There's no way he did this."
Notice something about the stark contrast? Yeah a fuck-ton of slut shaming is what the girls-the VICTIMS have to deal with. And people still wonder why women don't come forward. It's because of this. Because of the refusal to believe them and the treatment of those who do report. Charlie was awesome. I loved the hell out of her from nearly the beginning. Sure she and Mara had a complicated history, but they were still able to be friends, although there was jealousy & akwardness when it came to Charlie's new girlfriend and later on, Alex, the boy Mara was sort of seeing. And by sort of, I mean Alex and Mara were kinda using each other for comfort. See, Alex was Owen's best friend, and he was struggling with the idea that his friend could have done this. Anyway, back to Charlie. I think this was the first book I've read with a non-binary character. There absolutely needs to be more. I loved the conversation Charlie and Mara had about her preferred pronouns. I found that conversation incredibly relevant as I have had to have that conversation more than once. I would never want to insult someone by using the incorrect pronoun. My distaste for Owen only grew as the book went on. The obvious disrespect he had for women, even his own sister, made me ragey.
"There's no way I'm letting my sister go to school like that." Owen 
"I'm sorry...Let me?" 
"Yeah, let you. You think I want everyone in school staring at your...Who are you supposed to be, slutty school girl?" 
My heart broke even more for Mara after this conversation. I felt sick to my stomach at the way Owen was treating her just because of the clothes she chose to wear. Disgustingly, this is how women & girls are treated in our society. Instead of feeling disgusted by what happens to them, people just blame the assault on what the girls were wearing. Final thoughts: Read this beautiful book, let your heart break and marvel at the strength of victims.

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