SEE ALL THE STARS
Author: Kit Frick
Genre: Young Adult Suspense
Publisher: McElderry Books
Review by CL Vitek
It’s hard to find the truth beneath the lies you tell yourself.
THEN They were four—Bex, Jenni, Ellory, Ret. Electric, headstrong young women; Ellory’s whole solar system.
NOW Ellory is alone, her once inseparable group of friends torn apart by secrets, deception, and a shocking incident that changed their lives forever.
THEN Lazy summer days. A party. A beautiful boy. Ellory met Matthias and fell into the beginning of a spectacular, bright love.
NOW Ellory returns to Pine Brook to navigate senior year after a two-month suspension and summer away—no boyfriend, no friends. No going back. Tormented by some and sought out by others, troubled by a mysterious note-writer who won’t let Ellory forget, and consumed by guilt over her not entirely innocent role in everything and everyone she’s lost, Ellory finds that even in the present, the past is everywhere.
The path forward isn’t a straight line. And moving on will mean sorting the truth from the lies—the lies Ellory has been telling herself.
What happened junior year? That’s the main mystery in Kit Frick’s debut novel See All The Stars. Secrets, lies, and betrayals unfold over the course of the book. The story transpires through Ellory’s disjointed narration, recently returned to school after a lengthy suspension. Dealing with the aftermath of an event only referred to as “The Fall,” Ellory is learning to cope with her decisions and her past. Frick does a wonderful job weaving the story together. Her writing is dynamic and each scene flows into the next. The story moves quickly, while giving enough detail to learn about these characters. The shifting perspective from past to present gives the reader just enough detail to pull together relationships, while offering nudges as everything is about to fall apart.
The story centers on Ellory and Ret, two girls who have been friends for a long time. The world of teenage female friendship is complex and often rife with conflict. The book does a good job depicting the integral complications that occur with a group of friends that rely on a focal member. Ret has always been the glue that holds the group together, often with friction among the other members. Ellory and the others follow her lead, often vying for attention. There’s an element of the classic “mean girls” narrative in this, though tempered to a more realistic, if overly dramatic, degree. Their relationship is most interesting when it lets the girls be themselves. Ret basks in their attention and they bask in hers. Though sometimes, it feels like there’s a hint at something just beneath the surface, never quite spoken.
These four girls are inseparable. In the end, it felt as if their relationship was built on clichés that almost explored something a little more substantial but never quite got there. It’s hard to feel empathy for Ellory when she seems completely aware of the unhealthy nature of her relationship with the other girls. Dismissing the signs, she doesn’t seem to have any urge to leave or change the codependent behavior. The story doesn’t challenge Ellory in those decisions, not even when it leads to disastrous results.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-”
“I followed her.”
With the set-up, it’s fairly obvious that something isn’t what it seems. So as more of the plot is dedicated to the mystery of the previous semester, it becomes clear that the mystery isn’t actually the focus of this book, despite the marketing. The book is less a thriller than it is a story about growing up and learning to move forward. We know something is going to happen; we’re just reading to flesh out the details. The uptick in suspenseful young adult novels has led to a number of similar titles in the market from the Pretty Little Liars series to now. See All The Stars is the newest of that trend. Though it will appeal to young adult suspense fans, the book doesn’t deviate from the formulaic set-up enough to ever get more interesting.
The story relies on some tired tropes to move the story forward, including some dramatic situations for the main cast. There’s also an element of stereotyping in the portrayal of some mental health issues in the book, leading to some uncomfortable depictions of symptoms and behavior that doesn’t quite ring true to anyone familiar with counseling or therapy. Some might find the build-up unrealistic or too tropey to drive the final scene, where it matters the most. To me, it felt like a weak spot in an otherwise interesting story, especially tying into the final twist.
Verdict: Check it out.
The book is paced for a quick read; action takes the reader from one scene to the next, leading the audience to piece together the timeline. The nonlinear style worked well for the story; I don’t think it would have been effective without it. It also kept me turning pages once I’d guessed the major conflict and the incident that drove this group apart. In See All The Stars Frick offers just enough details to keep you from looking away, knowing that the proverbial train wreck is right around the corner.
Some readers may guess the ending before the story arrives there, lessening the impact of the final reveal. This story may appeal to those who enjoy We are Liars, One of Us is Lying, or The Perfectionists. As an exploration of grief and toxic relationships, See All The Stars has more potential to address the complexity of growing up and the consequences of tragedy.
See All The Stars will be released on August 14, 2018.