The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them Book Poster Image
Teen girls fall in love, face death in breathtaking tale.

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about the culture of Trinidad and of Caribbean immigrants in the United States, including some common phrases and idioms. The book also presents a realistic and not too upsetting portrayal of what it's like to go through chemotherapy.

Positive Messages

Love conquers fear.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The story centers on black characters: African Americans, Caribbeans, and immigrants from the Caribbean to the United States. A major theme is the struggle for teen lesbians to discover themselves, forge their first romantic connections, and manage family reactions. A strength of the book is the way it communicates how complexity and variety exist in loving relationships. A marriage breaks up due to depression in one of the partners. A girl finds deep connection with her grandmother. There's a pen pal relationship between a dying girl and a death row prisoner, and a tight-knit bunch of elderly siblings and cousins. 


A mother beats her daughter when she catches her naked and making out with another girl.


An erotic but not graphic make-out scene on the beach between two teen girls, and several other instances of romantic kissing.


Multiple but infrequent uses of "s--t" and variations of "f--k." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A 16-year-old girl smokes pot with her grandmother. Teen girls consume edible and smoked marijuana while on a sleepover. 

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." 

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byMaple Syrup May 29, 2021

My Favorite Book Of All Time!!!

This book is absolutely amazing! It has an incredible storyline and covers hard topics such as death, abuse, and inequality gracefully. It makes me cry (in a go... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byCreative Haven September 17, 2020

Very emotional and thought-provoking

Personally, I thought the depiction of LGBTQ teens (coming out, homophobic family members, questioning) was very accurate and it really hit close to home. Defin... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love LGBTQ stores and romance mixed with illness

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