Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Book Review: Where the Forest Meets the Stars

I have been reading a lot of reviews as of late and while I'm loving it, Matt is not because books keep showing up in the mail. I ordered this one a few months ago after reading a LOT of reviews just raving about it and I thought this would make a great book for Olivia for her Easter basket. She absolutely ADORED it and I was a meh.

Where the Forest Meets the Stars - Glendy Vanderah

After the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer, Joanna Teale returns to her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, determined to prove that her recent hardships have not broken her. She throws herself into her work from dusk to dawn, until her solitary routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child who shows up at her cabin barefoot and covered in bruises.

The girl calls herself Ursa, and she claims to have been sent from the stars to witness five miracles. With concerns about the child’s home situation, Jo reluctantly agrees to let her stay—just until she learns more about Ursa’s past.

Jo enlists the help of her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel Nash, to solve the mystery of the charming child. But the more time they spend together, the more questions they have. How does a young girl not only read but understand Shakespeare? Why do good things keep happening in her presence? And why aren’t Jo and Gabe checking the missing children’s website anymore?

Though the three have formed an incredible bond, they know difficult choices must be made. As the summer nears an end and Ursa gets closer to her fifth miracle, her dangerous past closes in. When it finally catches up to them, all of their painful secrets will be forced into the open, and their fates will be left to the stars. 

A few years ago I read a book called The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope as part of a review tour and it remains one of my all time favorite books. When I saw the synopsis of this book it kind of reminded me of that because Adam Hope was kind of a being from beyond who goes on to be such an integral part of so many around him. In a way, Ursa is similar but the ending and the journey to the end are so completely different so I'm not sure if it's me being disappointed because of that or because this book could have been... more? I'm not sure but I'm giving this a solid 3 stars. Which, I know people will scoff and say ONLY three?! And to that I say calm down and unclutch the pearls, 3 stars means I liked it, and I did like this book. Did I really like it? I don't feel like it quite reaches that level. But let's talk about it.

So in this book we have Ursa, supposedly a being from space who is here to witness five miracles, and she shows up on Jo's door and Jo can't shake her. Though Jo suspects she's really an abused and possibly abandoned girl, she can't figure out what to do because the girl runs (literally) at any mention of the police. Jo quickly makes friends with the chicken guy down the street, Gabe. It quickly becomes obvious that Jo and Gabe are going to end up a thing but they both have some serious obstacles to overcome, plus there is the pesky problem of Ursa.

Some issues I had was Jo's story felt under developed for me but then I wonder if the details of her cancer are watered down because this is a YA novel? Also we see a teaser of a past relationship between Jo and Tanner at the very beginning but we never get any details so it seems pointless to introduce it. Gabe and his depression feels... it just feels off and as someone who does have depression to that level, it wasn't portrayed very well and it's not a matter of just getting up out of bed and getting better. I'm not naive and I know the foster care system is a hot mess but this portrays it in a terrible light and I worry that a kid in the position of maybe going into foster care would be scared by reading this, but maybe that's just the worrying mom in me looking for the worst. I don't know, but I just felt like that part of the story wasn't fully fleshed out. And the ending, I felt like the ending was rushed and we don't really have a conclusion and I was kind of disappointed and wanted more.

With all of that, there are things I really did love, and the first being Jo and how she isn't a feel-sorry-for-myself kind of gal. She's got a terrible health situation but she really is an independent person who perseveres through this and I really thought that's a great message for young people to read. I loved how educated and smart she was and I thought- this is the kind of character we need more of, specifically in YA books. I really found Ursa to be annoying but she was also kind of endearing because as a mom I think I see her a little differently than a teenager reading this book.

Overall, I liked the book. Is it one I'm going to read again? No. Is it one that my teenager really loved? YES. She actually came bouncing down the stairs in tears telling me I had to read this and to this day I have no idea what she was crying for because I didn't come close, but clearly I'm not as cool as I used to be. If you're looking for a summer read for your teen to keep them off their phones, this might be a good option. It does have a scene where it's clear two people were going to have sex without giving you any of the details but to be fair, I'm not sure my 13 year old picked up on it. Also, there is a lot of discussion about Jo's job studying bird nests which makes it the perfect cabin read!



Emily said...

I've heard such great things about this book. I added it to my TBR list.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I'm glad Olivia loved it, but sorry it was a bit of a like/not like for you! It happens.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a really interesting book. I might have to add it to my Goodreads list, which will never stop growing! :)

My Happy Chance said...

Nice review....:)