Saturday, December 28, 2019

Middle-Grade Review: Stargazing

I'd already been hearing good reviews of Jen Wang's latest middle-grade graphic novel, Stargazing, so I was glad to have a chance to read it myself. It's a warm story of friendship but with a surprising twist.

Christine has been brought up in a traditional Chinese-American home by her loving but strict parents. She plays the violin, studies hard (including Chinese class at home), removes her shoes when she enters the house, and is generally quiet and polite. One day, she meets Moon, a girl about her age who is different from anyone she has ever met before. Moon is impulsive and outspoken and not afraid to be herself. Moon and her mother move into the guest house behind Christine's house, and the two girls begin to become friends. Moon teaches Christine how to dance and helps her paint her nails for the first time, and her mom cooks vegetarian food for Christine. Moon has some problems, though, like sometimes getting angry and getting into fights. The two girls decide to dance to a K-pop song (another new thing Moon has introduced Christine to) for the school talent show, though Christine gets a little jealous when Moon kindly invites another girl from school to join them. When something shocking happens to Moon, Christine wants to make up with her friend and apologize for her jealousy.
Sample page from Stargazing by Jen Wang

In some ways, this warm, sweet story of middle-grade friendship reminded me of similar graphic novels by Shannon Hale, Raina Telgemeier, and Jennifer and Matthew Holm. What sets it apart is its focus on the Chinese-American community, its opposites-attract friendship, and the very surprising plot twist that adds a whole other dimension to the story (don't worry--telling you there's a twist won't ruin it for you--it will still surprise you!). Jen explains in an Afterword that although the story is fictional, it is based on a nugget of truth from her own childhood. Her drawings are realistic and colorful and add an extra visual dimension to the story, as the best graphic novels do. I enjoyed Stargazing very much and look forward to more graphic novels from Jen Wang (and Lark Pien did the coloring in this one).

214 pages, First Second

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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  1. This sounds really good and I love that it includes K-pop!