Review: Starworld – Girl Friendships, Family Drama, and Roleplaying via Text

Title: Starworld
Author: Audrey Coulthurst & Paula Garner
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: April 16th, 2019
Genre(s): YA Contemporary
Subjects and Themes: LGBTQIAP+, Female Friendships, Family
Page Count: 352 (hardback)

Rating: 6.5/10

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Sam Jones and Zoe Miller have one thing in common: they both want an escape from reality. Loner Sam flies under the radar at school and walks on eggshells at home to manage her mom’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, wondering how she can ever leave to pursue her dream of studying aerospace engineering. Popular, people-pleasing Zoe puts up walls so no one can see her true self: the girl who was abandoned as an infant, whose adoptive mother has cancer, and whose disabled brother is being sent away to live in a facility. When an unexpected encounter results in the girls’ exchanging phone numbers, they forge a connection through text messages that expands into a private universe they call Starworld. In Starworld, they find hilarious adventures, kindness and understanding, and the magic of being seen for who they really are. But when Sam’s feelings for Zoe turn into something more, will the universe they’ve built survive the inevitable explosion?



*Tries to write review*

*Remembers that I read this two months ago and that I have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to books* 

*Clutches head and swears profusely at the procrastination gods* 

There’s a lot of that kind of dialogue in this book, and sometimes it’s cute and other times it’s cringey, so if you’re super sensitive to secondhand embarrassment, you…might have a hard time with it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself!

Starworld is a slow-burn contemporary story about an awkward artsy girl and a popular girl who navigate the murky waters of family and friendship together. Both girls have difficult family lives–one has with a mother with OCD and the other a mother with cancer and a brother with special needs–and the emotions surrounding these everyday battles are shown so incredibly well. Guilt, resentment, anger, and love connecting all of it–it’s messy and complex and the book gives no definite answers on how they should be reacting to these problems, which I thought was beautifully realistic.

And to see Sam and Zoe come together and realize they have so much in common, and that their personalities mesh so well, was a treat to read. Believable chemistry is so hard to pull off in stories and these girls have it in spades.

Now for the not-so-great parts:

The story doesn’t really come with an overarching plot and so the pacing moves from slow to near-glacial (so much that it felt a lot longer than 352 pages). There’s a lot of extraneous dialogue and scenes with people eating and doing other mundane activities; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing–just not for everyone.

And I did find some of the text dialogue overbearing. I think there’s a limit to how much asterisk talk (or “startalk”) I can handle and there’s a LOT of it in this book. And I’m speaking as someone who uses asterisks all the time. Doesn’t mean I want to read through a hundred pages of it.

My biggest problem, though, is with the ending. I appreciate the authors sticking to the theme of life being messy and unpredictable, but the execution just made me super annoyed.

[Spoilers: highlight to read] Everything leading up to the ending made me believe that this was a strangers-to-friends-to-lovers story. Turns out I was horribly wrong because Zoe ends up rejecting Sam, and Sam goes into ghost mode and ignores her for the rest of the school year. The end.

Compared to the care that was put into their relationship for 300+ pages, everything about this ending was abrupt and underdeveloped. The open communication that was such a key part of the friendship straight-up vanishes in this final act and I couldn’t help but feel cheated.

So my feelings on it are mixed. But I would still recommend it just for Zoe and Sam’s friendship (sans the ending), because they are very, very good together and we always need more stories about girls helping each other to find themselves.



Review copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

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0 comment

Priyasha April 19, 2019 - 6:21 am

Kathy ‘ Great review!!! ❤

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky April 21, 2019 - 4:29 pm

Thank you, Priyasha!

Tammy April 19, 2019 - 6:36 am

I had to read the spoiler and wow. I’d be disappointed too!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky April 25, 2019 - 6:19 pm

YUP. It doesn’t help that I recently read another, more satisfying book with a friendship/romance that wasn’t a happily ever after.

The BookWorm Drinketh April 19, 2019 - 6:51 am

Awww… The plot sounded so cute!! But, I don’t think I can read this one. Glacial pace and cringe worthy dialogue are my kryptonite. 😂😂

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky April 23, 2019 - 11:01 pm

Hahaha the speaking dialogue is actually pretty normal, it’s just some of the text talk that makes me want to hide under a blanket! 😛

jennifertarheelreader April 19, 2019 - 6:21 pm

Your review is lovely and so thoughtful, Kathy! I’m sorry it didn’t work out for the best, but you are absolutely right that we need more girls’ friendship stories! ♥️ Happy weekend, my friend! Xoxo

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky April 23, 2019 - 10:42 pm

Thank you, Jennifer!! <3 I've always found a lot of girl friendship stories in contemporary and historical fiction, but not as much in fantasy and sci-fi, so I'm avidly on the lookout for those right now. 😀

Norrie April 20, 2019 - 8:55 am

Great review! I love how you broke it down! You defo made me interested. Seems like all the characters have a lot going on for them. I kinda like those 😀

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky April 23, 2019 - 10:32 pm

Ohhh yeah, they definitely have a lot going on. And I like those too. 😀 And it could have easily been overwhelming to read about, but I think the authors did a really good job making it readable without sacrificing any of the emotional oomf

waytoofantasy April 21, 2019 - 4:03 pm

Nice review. I think that style of dialogue would bother me to some extent lol. I remember reading another book by Audrey Coulthurst and having mixed feelings on it. Not sure I’ll be checking this one out.

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky April 23, 2019 - 10:21 pm

I spent half the time grimacing and the other half going “Aww that’s pretty cute” with the dialogue. So that was an interesting experience. 😀 And this is my first Audrey Coulthurst book! I’ve been meaning to check out Inkmistress but it got buried under other TBR books.

dreamingofcats April 22, 2019 - 2:43 am

oh no, I had a horrible feeling that your spoiler was how it was going to end, I’m so disappointed. this sounded like a possibility for me because I am always here for f/f relationships, but not with that ending </3

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky April 23, 2019 - 10:17 pm

Mhm! It’s not that I always want queer stories to end with a HEA, because *everyone* experiences heartbreaks, but this one was SO perfectly set up for a romance and not at all well set up for the actual ending it got.


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