Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Reading Through History: The Star That Always Stays by Anna Rose Johnson (2022)

In 1914, when her divorced mother remarries, Norvia, a girl of Ojibwe descent, moves with her family from an island in Lake Michigan to the city, where she must hide her heritage and attempt to fit in with her new stepfamily. Using characters from literature as her models, Norvia strives to be a heroine while navigating family strife, friendships, her first year of high school, and her first crush. This novel is based on the author's own family history. 

This beautifully written middle grade novel has many things going for it. The characters feel real, the historical setting feels authentic, and the family dynamics, racial issues, and coming-of-age plot are handled well. The story reads like a classic novel about a girl growing up, and it has much in common with a lot of my vintage favorites, like Bright Island and the Betsy-Tacy series. The story also has a Christian flavor to it, with Scripture quoted throughout.  I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook. 

The only thing that made me uncomfortable with the novel is the fact that Norvia's mother abruptly turns her back on her Catholic faith. She is divorced, remarries outside the church, and then becomes a Presbyterian. While this is certainly a believable course of action, it felt strange that more wasn't made of it, especially when the Presbyterian characters go out of their way to express concern about the mother being a divorcee. It just didn't feel believable that there wasn't more angst surrounding the decision to remarry outside the church or to stop receiving the Eucharist. This is a small thing in the novel, but I was preoccupied with it the entire time I was reading. 

I don't read much newly-published middle grade these days, but this one was definitely worth picking up. The writing is lovely, and young readers will happily root for Norvia.  I hope to see more historical fiction from Anna Rose Johnson! 

I received a digital ARC of this book from the author via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.

No comments:

Post a Comment