Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This review will include my thoughts on the audio book version in addition to the content.
This book was an extreme taste of teen high school drama. I had moments where I felt a little silly listening to the angstiness, but then I reminded myself that I’m not the targeted age group. It was very dramatic and emotional and I won’t lie that I got a little teary-eyed in places. The ending was not at all what I was expecting and when I realized where it was going I was a little disappointed, but I do think it was the best ending for this story as a whole.
Full Review with Spoilers
I admit I immediately started rolling my eyes when I started this book. The story dives directly in Sam’s teen angst and as expected she’s an awkward, smart, artistic loner. Emphasis on the awkward. She has spent her life trying to be robotic and avoid people and it shows. Zoe of course is the complete opposite. She’s popular, well known and stands out. Sam’s art is what attracts Zoe to her and Zoe, who doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, treats Sam like a person despite Sam’s attempts not to be one.
Both of these characters are FULL of angst and at home drama. Some of it justified, and some comes off a wee bit whiny. This started to irritate me a little early on. Sam’s constant anger at her mom’s extreme OCD and unwillingness to seek help and Zoe feeling sorry for herself for being given up for adoption seemed a bit shallow at first. I did need to step back and remind myself that it wasn’t a book written for me and the budding friendship between the two of them helped me to overlook these facts.
The girls start texting one another by accident after Sam agrees to let Zoe use one her paintings in a school play. Sam’s awkward way of speaking and narrating her actions in text appeals to Zoe and the two start to text a fantasy adventure back and forth they have dubbed Starworld. The two depend on these fake adventures with a dragon named Humphry that is fueled by hot sauce as a way of escaping the real world.
I could appreciate the way the two helped each other grow and face the problems in their lives, pushing each other to make the changes they needed. Sam however, begins developing feelings for Zoe. Sadly, Sam has never allowed herself to have close friendships with anyone, let alone another female friend. Zoe is used to affection and closeness among her own friends. Sam, having already started questioning her sexuality before the beginning of the book, mistakes this kind of friendship for something more, assuming her own feelings are being mirrored by Zoe. It is painful to see Sam fall and Zoe attempt to salvage a friendship that Sam just can’t handle at that moment of her life anymore.
This book does not go in the direction I had expect at all when I started it and I had a fleeting moment of disappointment when I realized this would not be a love story with a happily ever after. The journey these two went on to grow up, fix their flaws and realize they didn’t have as many as they thought was touching. It was a great story of needing someone in your life who will change it for the better. It was a bit heartbreaking to see that the friendship never really recovered until a line that eludes to them potentially reconnecting at the end, but it did feel like the only way the story could have gone.
I do wish that there had been a little bit more involvement with Zoe and Sam’s friends. There was a decent group of supporting secondary characters that I feel just sort of dropped off. I kept expecting a little bit more, especially with Zoe’s friend group but sadly that just never happened.
The audio book version of this book was done very well. Voice actors Brittany Pressley, Emma Galvin do a fantastic job as Zoe and Sam. They bring a lot of emotion to the characters and I honestly think I would not have gotten as teary-eyed as I did in parts had it not been the the emotional way they presented the content.
It was a bit cringy early on, but quickly gains steam and is an emotional roller coaster worth reading.
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