A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Stars and the Blackness Between Them was named a 2020 Coretta Scott King (Author) Honor Book. It is a work of magical-realism about two teen girls who fall in love, and how their relationship grows after one of them receives a life-threatening diagnosis. It alternates between the two girls' points of view: Audre, who grew up in Trinidad and moves to her father's home in Minnesota, and Mabel, who grew up in Minnesota. There are a few chapters in the voice of a death row inmate who becomes a pen pal to the sick girl. A 16-year-old girl smokes pot with her grandmother. Teen girls consume edible and smoked marijuana while on a sleepover. There are erotic but not graphic make-out scenes between teens and several other instances of romantic kissing. A mother beats her daughter when she catches her naked and making out with another girl. There are multiple but infrequent uses of "s--t" and variations of "f--k."
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What's the story?
When THE STARS AND THE BLACKNESS BETWEEN THEM opens, Audre's mother has found her making love with another girl. She commands Audre to move from her home in Trinidad, where she's surrounded by a loving grandmother and aunties, to Minnesota, where her father lives. In Minnesota, Audre meets Mabel, the daughter of her father's friend. The two become close friends, and their relationship blossoms into romance. Mabel feels under the weather for many weeks, and the doctor's tests reveal a life-threatening illness. As she undergoes treatment, Mabel leans on Audre, who draws upon the healing powers her grandmother has cultivated in her. She also takes comfort in the music of Whitney Houston and the spiritual writings of a death-row inmate whose book she finds on her parents' shelves. Mabel and the inmate, Afua, become pen pals and begin a correspondence about life and death.
Is it any good?
This is a breathtakingly beautiful book. The Stars and the Blackness Between Them is Junauda Petrus' first novel; however, she's an accomplished filmmaker, poet, performance artist, and playwright, and brings all of those talents to bear. The book benefits from rich visual imagery, poems, and a skillful use of dialect and accents to reveal character. The author touches on coming out, conflict with parents, extended family relationships, friendship, justice, the immigrant experience, and mortality, all the while making her characters feel like real, specific, lovable people.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how young love shapes the lives of the characters in The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. Each of the two main characters falls in love for the first time. The author also includes early love stories about the Audre's grandmother and her parents. How are their stories different? How are they similar?
The book is written in a style called "magical realism." The story takes place in the real world, but supernatural events happen. Why do you think the author chose to use magic the way she did?
The adult family members have conflicting approaches to dealing with Mabel's and Audre's concerns. How do the adults' own lives influence their attitudes and behaviors?
- Author: Junauda Petrus
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Publication date: September 17, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Award: Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors
- Last updated: April 23, 2021
Our editors recommend
For kids who love LGBTQ stores and romance mixed with illness
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