The Stars Never Rise

Soul-consuming demons started a war and almost caused the end of the world. The Church protects the remaining vestiges of humanity, and keeps everyone safe by enforcing strict rules and penance. Nina and her sister chafe under this strict system, and when they discover a horrifying truth, they must decide if the Church is really the hero everyone believes.

The Stars Never Rise has an interesting premise and is well-written, with actions and questions that keep the pages turning. However, the plot follows a lot of Young Adult clichés that hinder the originality of this text. There is a lot of violence that makes this novel inappropriate for young readers. Also, the Church is demonized and religion is shown in an incredibly negative light.

Sexual Content

  • Mel tells her sister, “You’re gonna need some way to work off all that sexual frustration.”
  • Nina thinks, “I didn’t know a single boy who’d ever worn a purity ring. Evidently, their virginity was worth even less than the stolen band of steel around my finger.”
  • Girls are examined by the Church, to determine if they are fit to bear children. “At fifteen years old, I was disqualified for procreation based on a history of allergies, my flat feet, and mild myopia–conditions it wouldn’t be fair to pass along to the next generation . . . Nearly a third of the girls in my class were declared unfit. We were sterilized that afternoon.”
  • Nina’s fifteen-year-old sister gets pregnant with her secret boyfriend. She says, “We tried to stop. We knew it was wrong, but it didn’t feel wrong.” Her mother tells her that, “We’ll fix it. I know someone who can do it safely, but it’s a drive. . .”
  • When Nina is caught shoplifting, the shop owner demands a sexual favor in exchange for keeping quiet. “My teeth ground together as I unbuttoned my blouse. I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see him, but I couldn’t avoid hearing the way his breathing changed. The way his inhalations hitched, his exhalations growing heavier and wetter with each button that slid through its hole . . . A second later, his fingers were there, greedy and eager. They pushed at the remaining material, shoving my bra up, squeezing, pinching.”
  • Finn assures Nina that he won’t rape her. ” ‘ If I were planning to . . . you know . . . ‘ He waved one hand at my entire body. ‘I wouldn’t have given you a slab of wood with nails sticking out of it.’ He pointed to the two-by-four still lying next to me within easy reach. ‘I’m as protective of my parts as the next guy’ “
  • Nina and Finn kiss a few times. “His mouth met mine, and I almost choked on surprise . . . I committed to that kiss like I’d committed to little else in life. My fingers brushed over short stubble at the back of his jaw on their way into his hair. He sucked my lower lip into his mouth and I let him have it.”
  • Nina thinks about her “carnal rebellion following [her] sterilization,” when she had a slew of one-night stands.
  • Dale accuses Nina of prostitution. “I caught her several times, here in the store, and she always tried to buy her way out of trouble, if you know what I mean. You know, with the only kind of payment a girl like that understands.”

Violence

  • Nina and her sister avoid their mother as much as possible because their mother angers easily and can get violent.
  • When a seventeen-year-old refused to kneel for worship, “They forced her to her knees on the dais, closed the steel cuffs about her calves, then burned her alive in front of the entire school.”
  • Mel realizes her mother plans to sell her. Her mother says, “You can’t imagine what a young, healthy body is worth to the right people.”
  • Nina discovers she is an exorcist. “The moment my fingers touched her chest, something exploded between us. . . The monster tried to back away but couldn’t disconnect from the fierce light still shining between us . . . the tingling beneath my skin had become the roar of a blaze that should have devoured my fingers but consumed the demon instead.”
  • Nina exorcizes several demons. “We crashed to the ground and I sat on his stomach, then pressed my glowing left hand against his chest. The demon screamed like a wounded cat, and my hand burned and burned and burned.” “He tried to scramble off me, but the fire in my hand had captured him, and the demon was stuck there, convulsing in the throes of death as his rotting flesh fried.”
  • Adam is burned alive. “Fire consumed Adam . . . could not mute his screams or the crackle of his crisping skin, captured by multiple microphones and broadcast all over the country. He hunched forward . . . I choked on the scent of burning flesh and hair.”
  • A demon kills several people. “He lay dead on the ground, blood still pouring through the gaping hole in his throat.” “Blood and liquefied brains exploded into the lobby from the hallway, and I caught a brief glimpse of the carnage already laid out inside.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Nina suspects her mother is doing drugs. “There was a spot of blood on her pillow, and more of it crusted on her upper lip. Another nosebleed. She was killing herself. Slowly. Painfully, from the looks of it.”
  • Finn emerged from the kitchen with a bottle of water in one hand and a clear, unlabeled bottle of amber liquid in the other.”

Language

  • Hell is said often, both in referring to the place and as profanity.
  • Shit and bullshit are said several times. “Oh shit,” Nina thinks. “Oh shitshitshit.”
  • Damn is said often. Nina’s sister says, “If you’re determined to damn yourself to a life of servitude, communal living and celibacy wouldn’t you rather be slaying demons?”
  • The word bitch is used several times. Mel’s mother calls her a “little bitch!”
  • Ass and badass are said a few times. Devi tells Finn, “I swear I’ll exorcise your ass right out of him.”

Supernatural

  • When a demon inhabits a human body for too long, that body turns into a degenerate. “It was bald, with cheekbones so sharp they should have sliced through skin, and ears pointy on both the tops and the lobes. And most–disturbing of all–it was female. Sagging, grayish breasts swung beneath torn scraps of cloth that were once a dress.”
  • Exorcists are the only ones who can send demons back to hell. “his hand against her bony sternum, both glowing with the last of that strange light . . . An exorcist in a hoodie. Where was his long black cassock, his cross, and his holy water?”
  • There is a shortage of souls because the demons ate so many during the war. Therefore there are many stillbirths. Children who do live are usually given a soul by an elder family member. Those that are lucky get a soul from the public registry when someone dies.
  • Some exorcists have extra abilities, like heightened hearing and enhanced strength.
  • The group Nina is rescued by is a group of people who were denounced by the church because they are supposedly suspected of possession.

Spiritual Content

  • Nina’s sister says, “Everything worth doing is a sin.”
  • Nina breaks many Church rules. “So what if deception was a sin? You can’t get convicted if you don’t get caught.”
  • As punishment for blasphemy, “Sister Camilla dragged Matthew onto the stone dais in the center of the courtyard, then forced him to kneel . . . she flipped a curved piece of metal over each of his legs, just above his calves, then snapped the locks into place, confining the five-year-old to his knees in the freezing rain. The posture of penitence.”
  • Finn is a soul without a body, who is able to inhabit other people’s bodies.

 

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