Middle Grade Monday: What Stars are Made Of, by Sarah Allen

Running a bit behind this Monday morning. I totally forgot to finish my post yesterday thanks to Mother's Day fun.

 I picked up the recommendation for this one from Jemima Pett's W post in the A to Z challenge.

Title: What Stars Are Made Of
Author: Sarah Allen
Publication Info: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2020. 279 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
Twelve-year-old Libby Monroe is great at science, being optimistic, and talking to her famous, accomplished friends (okay, maybe that last one is only in her head). She’s not great at playing piano, sitting still, or figuring out how to say the right thing at the right time in real life. Libby was born with Turner Syndrome, and that makes some things hard. But she has lots of people who love her, and that makes her pretty lucky.

When her big sister Nonny tells her she’s pregnant, Libby is thrilled—but worried. Nonny and her husband are in a financial black hole, and Libby knows that babies aren’t always born healthy. So she strikes a deal with the universe: She’ll enter a contest with a project about Cecelia Payne, the first person to discover what stars are made of. If she wins the grand prize and gives all that money to Nonny’s family, then the baby will be perfect. Does she have what it takes to care for the sister that has always cared for her? And what will it take for the universe to notice?

My Review:
Since Jemima Pett gave this a favorable review, I was pretty confident I would enjoy it, and I did. Despite a little fear that it would be one of what I think of as "issue of the month" books (books that seem largely meant to educate kids about some issue, syndrome, or illness), I found that a) Libby's Turner Syndrome is wholly relevant to who she is and to the plot, and b) the overall story was well written enough to keep me engaged. Oh, and I learned something I didn't know about science history and genetics.

Libby's issues with middle school felt real and realistic to me. I could certainly identify with being socially awkward and on the fringes of things, the kid who is a little too good at schoolwork. Given how often MG books are written about characters who feel this way, I have to wonder: is this, in fact, how most middle schoolers feel? Like everyone else is just skating through and you alone are struggling with one thing or another? I do love that Libby manages to make friends with the new student in class, and only wish there could have been a little more exploration of her friend's situation and culture.

I'll recommend this for readers from 8 or 9 up, and for curious adults. It wasn't a difficult read, and I definitely zipped through it after my usual cautious approach to the first few chapters.

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of What Stars Are Made Of from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”   

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2023
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this. It sounds like one I'd like to. I like stories about girls who like science and where a disability is part of the story but it's incorporated naturally.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've been wondering one or two things about middle schoolers recently, given how similar so many of the characters are and how nobody is ever a bully but everyone is bullied. Are future writers guaranteed to be bullied and either the class nerd, or struggling to keep their heads above water?


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