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“I think friends should make you want to be brilliant,” Gemma. —Star-Crossed
by Barbara Dee
AR Test, LGBTQ
Matti has never wanted to be on stage before, but when her teacher announces that the eighth-grade play is Romeo and Juliet, Matti wants a part. Everyone expects Matti to be on the sidelines, but can she convince her teacher she deserves to be on the stage?
Matti had a crush on Elijah, but when the play begins everything changes. Gemma—a smart, pretty, British girl—gets the part of Juliet. Matti starts to wonder why she feels fluttery whenever she is near Gemma. If Matti was crushing on Elijah—a boy—could she also have a crush on a girl?
Many middle schoolers will relate to Matti as she struggles to understand her feelings. She also must figure out who she can trust with her secret. Even though she loves her friends, can they be trusted to not only accept that she has a crush on a girl, but can they also be trusted to keep Matti’s secret until she’s ready to reveal it?
Matti struggles with telling people she has a crush on a girl. When she tells her best friend and her sister, they both accept the news without shock and encourage her to pursue her crush. The story never delves into the negative reactions that others may have to her news.
Star-Crossed has plenty of dialogue and drama to keep readers engaged until the end. Throughout the story, the characters discuss Romeo’s and Juliet’s behavior and feelings of love. Although Matti’s story parallels Romeo and Juliet, the discussion of the play slows down the plot.
Middle school readers will fall in love with Matti and her friends. The characters include the typical mean girl, but also adds some unique characters. Tessa and her Shakespearean insults add humor. Matti’s inner thoughts add depth to the story. In the end, Matti’s story contains drama, crushes, family, and friendship conflict that will keep readers entertained. Star-Crossed is a romance appropriate for younger readers who want to learn about Romeo and Juliet.
- When Matti thinks about the play, she thinks, “All I could think about was Gemma kissing Liam, Liam kissing Gemma—and wondering why that image made my insides knot up.”
- During play practice, the kids are teasing a boy about having to kiss Gemma. When the boys are talking, Gemma “marched over to Liam and smooched him on the lips.”
- Matti wonders if she has a crush on a girl. If she did have a crush on a girl, “would it mean that you were gay, or a lesbian, or whatever word you were supposed to call it, if you liked only one particular girl?”
- When Matti sees Gemma, her “heart zoomed.”
- Matti reveals that she has a crush on a girl. Her sister responds by asking, “Have you ever kissed a boy?” When Matti says no, Cara replies, “Too bad. Because kissing a girl works the same way.”
- Matti thinks that she can crush on boys, even though she currently has a crush on a girl.
- During play practice, Gemma “smooched” Matti’s mouth. Then the two practice the scene that requires the two to kiss. When they have to kiss at play practice, “it made me (Matti) swimmy-headed.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- When talking about others or to others, often there is name-calling including dirtbag, moron, malt-worm, and doofus. For example, some said, “in my opinion Elijah’s a stuck-up dirtbag.”
- Tessa went to a Shakespeare camp and learned Shakespearean insults that she uses throughout the story. A list of the Shakespearean insults is included at the back of the book.
- When someone calls Tessa ugly, Tessa says, “I’m ugly? You’re like a toad; ugly and venomous. Thy face is not worth sunburning.”
- One of the characters says “bollocks” several times. The character also calls someone a “prat” and a “dimwit.”
- Dang is used three times.
- Oh My God, OMIGOD, and God are often used as exclamations.
- Holy Crap is said once.
- While discussing Romeo and Juliet, a student asks, “Isn’t that kind of gay?” The teacher explains, “People may choose to identify themselves as gay, and it’s a word of pride. But the way you’re using the word, it’s just an insult, and there’s no room for that in this production, or in this school. “