Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass. (Grades 4-7.)
From the moment I saw the cover of this book, I knew I wanted to read it. Okay, I know, you're not supposed to do that judging by the cover thing. But I couldn't help it. The cover is just so beautiful! And the words inside did not disappoint.
Describing the Moon Shadow campgrounds as rural is something of an understatement. Far, FAR away from city lights, the campgrounds are free from light pollution, which makes them the ideal place to do some stargazing. Or to watch an eclipse. And, in fact, a total eclipse is coming this summer.
Ally and her family run the campgrounds and they've been preparing for this eclipse for years. For a few weeks this summer, the campgrounds will be filled to capacity with eclipse chasers and amateur astronomers. Ally can't wait. She's passionate about astronomy and hopes to discover a comet someday. She may not have many friends (it's kinda hard to meet people when you live in the middle of nowhere) and she's not very concerned with her clothes or her hair, but Ally knows her stars.
Bree is kind of the polar opposite of Ally. She wants to be a model and she reaps the benefits of her carefully cultivated popularity. When her parents announce that they're going to the Moon Shadow campgrounds, Bree is crushed. She's not exactly a nature girl.
Jack is going to the Moon Shadow in lieu of summer school. See, he failed science because he'd rather draw than pay attention in class, and his science teacher offered to take him on a two-week trip to see the eclipse and help out with an astronomy experiment. He'll write a report at the end and it'll count as his science credit. But when Jack gets to the Moon Shadow, he finds much more than he's looking for.
In the days leading up to the eclipse, these three kids will be thrust together and form and unlikely friendship. Everything's changing and they're each looking for something (even if they don't know exactly what). As the eclipse approaches, maybe they'll find it...
I am a total geek and my favorite thing about this book was all the scientific and astronomical facts that Wendy Mass scattered throughout the book. Because Ally is such an astronomy dork and because the campground is filled with amateur and professional astronomers, the facts never seemed dry or superfluous. They were included in the story organically and I thought that made for a really interesting, unique story.
I loved all the characters, but I think that maybe I liked Bree the best because she didn't turn out to be the "typical" pretty, mean girl. Sure, she's beautiful. And, especially at the beginning of the story, she's kind of full of herself. But underneath that lacquered veneer, she's a real person and where she could be a real snot she actually shows compassion.
I liked seeing the story from all three perspectives, although I found the way the voices skip back and forth in time to be slightly distracting. Sometimes the next narrator picks up where the previous one left off, sometimes they go back in time a little bit so you see the same event through their eyes. Eh, it's a small complaint and didn't really mar my enjoyment of the book overall.
Definitely pair this one with a non-fiction astronomy book because I guarantee it'll pique your interest in stars, dark matter, eclipses, and comets. Might I suggest The Mysterious Universe or When is a Planet Not a Planet?
Visit Wendy Mass's website for info about this book and her other books. I've read A Mango-Shaped Space and I'll definitely be looking for some of her others. You also might want to read other reviews at A Patchwork of Books, The Reading Zone, Book Nut, Fuse #8, and Blue Rose Girls.