Want personalized picks that fit your family?

Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.

Get age-based picks

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.

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

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. 

Violence

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

Sex

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

Language

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 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 teen female couples 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

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

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

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love LGBTQ stores and romance mixed with illness

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate