FIC FEL (Reviewing “Wishing Upon the Same Stars”)

We changed our family schedule and it has led to the loss of reading time for me. It’s not a bad thing, it just means that it takes me a long time to get through a book now. So a book that would take me a couple days is now taking me a couple of weeks. I’m working to figure out how to regain the reading time I lost, but it will take me a bit, so bear with me!

This week’s read was “Wishing Upon the Same Stars” by Jacquetta Nammar Feldman. A great middle-grade text, this story touches deeply on the themes of family, friendship, community, and diversity.

In foreground, two girls hold hands while walking through a field of flowers. In the background is a river and hills and a night sky filled with stars. The text "Wishing Upon the Same Stars" is at the top of the image.
Cover of “Wishing Upon the Same Stars”

Twelve-year-old Yasmeen Khoury is the eldest child in her Palestinian-American family, living in Detroit, Michigan. When she learns that her family will be moving to San Antonio, she wishes for nothing more than to fit in, but she quickly realizes that unlike her Arab neighborhood in Detroit, she’s the only Palestinian girl in her new school and feels like she doesn’t really fit in. Yasmeen tries to navigate making friends at school, but finds herself the target of a group of mean girls. She also is forced to hide her budding friendship with her classmate and neighbor, Ayelet Cohen because Ayelet’s family is Israeli-American and both of their families still carry the pain and devastation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict they experienced in the Middle East before they moved to America. Yasmeen must navigate not only the tension of this new friendship and the lies she’s keeping from her family, but must also navigate the expectations placed upon her by her family and what home and heritage mean to her now that she has been displaced herself.

Feldman’s text is autobiographical adjacent – her father was a Christian Palestinian raised in Jerusalem who immigrated to the United States. And like Yasmeen, she made a Jewish best friend at 18 years old (who later became her husband). Feldman’s deep connection to the story can be seen and felt in the text – it makes the world Yasmeen is experiencing rich and filled with detail and emotion.

3 Defects

These are going to be nit-picky. The book was really excellent and these are SMALL defects. The first of these small defects is that

  1. I felt like there was a little TOO much happening in the story – dance lessons, math competitions, mean girl drama, friendship crossing cultural borders, grandma moving in, keeping in touch with old friends, budding romances, etc. MAYBE some of the smaller side stories could have been cut down to focus the story a little more? It would have strengthened an already great book.
  2. Sometimes the 12-year-old characters describe or explain things in a very “grown up” way. One of the students refers to themselves as a Dreamer (as in Hispanic/Latinx Dreamer), another deeply describes traditions, etc. While the explanations are needed, especially in a book for middle grade readers, these explanations coming from student to student seem… “beyond their years” wise.
  3. Lots of mini climaxes in the book leading up to the big one – while this keeps the story moving, some younger readers may have trouble following along with the story, especially in exposition periods between the peaks.

3 Delights

  1. The level of “world building” that Feldman has done is fantastic! I feel like I’ve walked into Yasmeen’s house and I’ve met her family members just based on the level of description laid out in the story.
  2. I really appreciate how well all of the conflicts and deeper issues were described and dealt with in a middle grade appropriate way. The novel touches on a HUGE range of social issues in a way that the average middle schooler or upper elementary student can understand. The novel would be a great jumping off point for non-fiction pairings or a social issues unit. The novel has SO many possibilities social issue discussions!
  3. The story and characters are just so SOLID and beautifully written. I appreciate how deeply I could connect to what Yasmeen was thinking and feeling and how lovely the conclusion of the story was – sometimes it’s just really nice to read a novel that has a happy ending (even though some people might find it too idyllic). The novel ends in a place of hope and community and it’s great.

SC SER (Reviewing “Serendipity: Ten romantic tropes transformed”)

So this is the PERFECT time of the year (just before Valentine’s Day hits) to pick up a book of love stories and “Serendipity: Ten Romantic Tropes Transformed” edited by Marissa Meyer did NOT disappoint from the Young Adult side of the aisle. This book includes short stories from a star studded cast of Young Adult authors including:

  • Julie Murphy (author of “Dumplin'” and “Ramona Blue”)
  • Leah Johnson (author of “You Should See Me in a Crown”)
  • Abigail Hing Wen (author of “Loveboat, Taipei”)
  • Caleb Roehrig (author of “Last Seen Leaving” and “White Rabbit”)
  • Marissa Meyer (author of “The Lunar Chronicles” and “Renegades”)
  • Sarah Winifred Searle (author of “The Greatest Thing” and “Sincerely, Harriet”)
  • Elise Bryant (author of “Happily Ever Afters”)
  • Elizabeth Eulberg (author of “Better Off Friends” and “The Lonely Hearts Club”)
  • Anna-Marie McLemore (author of “When the Moon was Ours”)
  • Sandhya Menon (author of “When Dimple Met Rishi”)
Cover image is has a blue floral background with pops of red, peach, and purple flowers that form the shape of a heart behind the text "Serendipity: Ten Romantic Tropes Transformed, Edited by Marissa Meyer"
Cover image of “Serendipity”

The book’s stories were beautifully diverse not just in race, culture, and socioeconomic status of their characters, but also had stories that broke away from the heteronormative, cis stories that you’d expect in a love anthology. The book also featured a short story in graphic novel format, which was a lovely surprise in what I thought was going to be an all-text anthology! Honestly, my “defects” on this book are going to be really tiny, nitpicky kinds of things because this was a beautifully pieced together work. Meyer really chose the best of the best for this anthology and it shows in just how lovely it was to read!

3 Defects

  1. So… IDK if they REALLY “transformed” the romantic tropes, so much as they messed with the possible outcomes of the trope, or they messed with the gender or sexuality of the characters to mess with the trope. Some stories played with it more than others and some followed the predictability of the trope entirely.
  2. This definitely felt like it fell on the younger side of YA. While this isn’t REALLY a defect, it might definitely turn off some readers, who, seeing the list of authors, might be expecting something slightly different (or something more “mature” in content). This is ALSO one of my delights… so… *shrug*
  3. This one is likely to become dated quickly, based on some of the social media/meme/etc. references, but it’s a price that must be paid to be relevant NOW.

3 Delights

  1. I love me YA romance that’s appropriate for slightly younger YA fans! This definitely would be appropriate for 7th/8th graders, as well as older readers. The language is pretty tame throughout the book (a couple of minor swear words here and there, but barely enough to mention), there is no “hard and heavy” physical romance, and even the few instances of the word “crotch” or a character being partially nude (some after hours swimming in a pool in their underwear), it’s honestly really tame. The biggest “controversy” is going to come from the LGBTQA+ relationships.
  2. YAY! Not just gender and hetero normative relationships! While I would have loved a deeper dip into more variations on sexuality (cuz teens have a wider variety than this text), for a short story anthology, I’m pretty happy.
  3. Short and sweet. Each of the stories is an appropriate length and keeps things just long enough to keep you interested, but just short enough you get the feel good fuzzies of the love story in a 10-15 minute window of reading. This was my school-pick-up-line read this last week and I could finish 1-2 stories during each 20-25 minute wait.

Secret add on delight? I love that there’s a Wisconsin girl in the mix of authors! Elizabeth Eulberg might be living in New York now, but she’s a self described “Proud Cheesehead” from Portage, WI who’s mom was her high school librarian… and that makes me so happy.