Title: Naming the Stars
Author: Susan Koefod
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication Date: September 5, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Teens, YA
Rating: 4/5 "I liked it"
I received an eARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.
16-year-old Mary-Louise comes home from swimming lessons one day to find she is absent from family photographs, her bedroom has turned into a linen closet, and all of her possessions have disappeared. More troubling, her family goes on as if she never existed. The only person in town who can actually see her is a boy she calls Fish, a YMCA swimming instructor, but Fish is hiding from a troubled past and the person he sees is entirely different from who she thought she was.
The girl he sees is entirely different from the insecure, unattractive girl Mary-Louise thinks of herself. The teens discover the photo of a spirited, beautiful young woman photographed many years before—Pearl—who exactly resembles the girl Fish sees. The truth about Pearl’s identity is the key to discovering why Mary-Louise has disappeared and why Fish left home, but his fears of being discovered are preventing him from helping Mary-Louise, after all, no one can see or hear her.
This coming-of-age story explores the important and often fragile connection between the roles we play in others’ lives—as siblings, children, friends, and partners—and the unique identity we must find in ourselves.
I have really been putting off writing my review of this novel. I honestly don't know where to begin. There are SOOO many people posting very positive reviews, and I'm just sitting here wondering why they are doing that. Do they see something that I don't? Yes, there are parts of this novel that are really good. Koefod does an excellent job of describing the world that she wants her audience to see and she does an even better job of using leitmotif to drive her bildungsroman to a strong conclusion. On the other hand, she does her audience the terrible disservice of adding so many interesting details and plot twists yet never following up on these! ACK ACK ACK! You're killing me, Koefod!
As you know, I hate being super negative. I just feel obliged to be critical and honest. If I said that every novel I have ever read was the best novel ever, it wouldn't be a compliment to anyone. So, let's start with the positives. Previously, I mentioned that Koefod expertly describes the world that her characters live in. I had no trouble picturing the $9.99 curtains in the home or the ivory dress that Mary-Louise wears. I love how realistic this made the story!
Koefod also refers back to the ideas of astronomy, cosmology, and water fairly often. At first, I could not figure out why this was such a big thing. I mean, I'm reading your book for the story, lady, not for a science lesson! But as the story progressed, her reasons for doing so began to click. This was how she intended to drive home the coming-of-age theme that she meant for this story to be about. After all, this was not a novel about Mary-Louise Moura and Fish, it was about self-acceptance and identity. Mary-Louise and Fish just happened to be in it.
Now for the more critical aspects. Koefod opened her novel to several opportunities. Mary-Louise looks like Pearl to fish. Mary-Louise magically knows how to dance when she wears Pearl's dress. Fish is the only one who can see her. And yet none of these are expanded upon. This novel would have had to have been longer in order to accommodate these ideas, but Koefod has a writing style that I would have loved to continue reading in exchange for further development! She had so many fantastical and whimsical options wide open, but she chose none of them! How could she do that to us!
I was also pretty sad that she set up a romance, but it never went anywhere. It would have been so natural for those two characters to be in a more romantic situation. Why not go with it? Why rush through it?
Honestly, this review has been the most difficult for me to write so far. I like the idea. I liked the story. I absolutely devoured it. But, it felt like it was rushed and went no where artistically. UGH. Give this one a try, guys. I want to know your thoughts! What is it about this book that I seem to be missing! You can buy it right here.
About the Author from GoodReadsA native Minnesotan, Susan Koefod spent much of her girlhood taking long bicycle rides and walks through hilly Dakota County and along the beautiful Mississippi River valley that shapes the state's southeastern border. Such excursions typically filled her imagination with poetry and story ideas. In fact, she invariably thought of herself in the third person, and she fictionalized herself in her early stories, but she relegated herself to the background as she could always invent more interesting characters to play the starring roles.
Susan Koefod is an award-winning novelist. Her Arvo Thorson mystery series was praised by Library Journal as “a smashing debut with astute observations and gorgeous prose.” She has also widely published prose and poetry, including placing short stories in national magazines and anthologies. NAMING THE STARS (Curiosity Quills Press, September 2016) is her young adult debut.
She is a recent recipient of a McKnight Artist Fellowship for Writers, administered by the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Five $25,000 awards are presented annually to accomplished Minnesota writers and spoken word artists. She holds an M.F.A. in writing from Hamline University, and lives with her family in West St. Paul, Minnesota.