Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC on May 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her.
And Mum’s disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions …
Fans fell in love with the warmth, wit, romance and fierce friendships in Flirty Dancing, Love Bomb, Sunkissed and Star Struck, and Stargazing for Beginners has all that and galaxies more. This is the best kind of real-life fiction – with big themes and irresistible characters, it goes straight to your heart.
I’ve read two of Jenny McLachlan’s books previously and enjoyed them but Stargazing for Beginners left me kind of disappointed. I found the plot to be extremely boring and the abundance of disliked tropes in this book made it hard for me to stay engaged and get through it.
This book follows Meg, a space-obsessed 15 year old, who suddenly finds herself looking after her one-year-old sister, Elsa, after her mother decides to take an impromptu trip to Myanmar to help sick kids. Meg is initially reluctant to take responsibility because she sees her sister as a bit of an inconvenience in her life and an obstacle towards her goal of winning a competition that will give her the opportunity to visit NASA’s headquarters in Houston. But she soon learns that achieving her dreams might require her to let others into her life. I think the only aspect of this book that I really liked was the science aspect. I loved that Meg was a STEM girl and that she was passionate about her studies and becoming an astronaut in the future. Her love for space and physics really came through in this book and made me really happy. But that’s kind of where it stops.
I didn’t like Meg’s character at all. I found her to be quite dislikable and difficult to connect with. This was probably in part to do with the fact that Stargazing for Beginners is targeted towards a younger YA audience but I usually don’t have much trouble connecting with younger characters. I just thought Meg was really cold and abrasive, and even though I was probably the same nerdy and introverted 15 year old, I found her really hard to relate to. And this was also true of most of the other characters in the novel. I thought they were a little bit too purposely quirky and none of them really seemed real to me. But can we talk about Meg’s mother and her disappearing into thin air? The absent parent narrative is one that I especially hate and the way that Meg’s mother disappeared was arguably worse than the alcoholic parent trope that we often see in YA contemporary. My mind just cannot comprehend the irresponsibility of her mother and what compelled her to neglect her two children… or how she managed to justify it to herself. Cannot compute.
On top of the issues I had with the characterization, I also found the plot to be boring and slow. There isn’t really anything that happens in this novel besides Meg going to school and sitting in classrooms, feeding and changing Elsa and writing a speech. There are some friendship elements as Meg makes friends with a random group of kids who sit around eating biscuits…but I found the development of these friendships to be really quick and a little bit unrealistic. I was honestly just a bit confused about the development of the plot and wasn’t really engaged in what was happening, which was why it took me a whole 6 days to finish what was supposed to be a fast-paced and short contemporary read.
The romance between Ed and Meg helped a little bit but my overall feeling about the romance was that it was a bit unnecessary. I don’t really believe that every YA contemporary needs a romance and this was one case where I would have preferred more plot and character development over the inclusion of a romance. I liked Ed as a character but he wasn’t really the nicest to Meg and I’m a little over the whole “he’s teasing you because he likes you” thing. My least favourite part of the romance was a trope that I actually discussed last week in my post, Five Most Disliked Tropes in YA Contemporary, and it irked me to no end that I pretty much predicted its presence in this novel.
Stargazing for Beginners had some great astronomy elements but fell short in its execution of the plot and characterization. I found most of it to be quite boring and the contemporary YA tropes that were in this book made it quite hard for me to digest.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for providing a review copy of the book.
Stargazing for Beginners was published on May 1st 2017 by Bloomsbury Australia and is available at all Australian retailers for $14.99.