Gwendolyn “Dough” Reilly is the kind of person that, on a normal day, you would pay no mind to. Quiet, reserved, and carrying a few extra pounds, she fits the very definition of “average.” She faces harassment and neglect at the hands of her wealthy peers daily but, lucky for her, she goes home every night to email her childhood best friend and long-distance boyfriend, Philip “Wish” Wishman. And if Facebook photos are any indication, he’s become increasingly gorgeous in the years since he moved to California while Gwen, well, has not.
And then Gwen gets the news that Wish is moving back. At first things are okay, but then Wish starts acting weird, even for Wish. He’s wearing black clothing even on the hottest of days, is now fearful of rain, and, on one strange night, is caught by a spying Gwen laying out under the stars, appearing to almost be absorbing their energy.
Christian, the brooding teen now helping out at Gwen’s family bakery, believes that Wish has become a member of the Luminati, a group that gains power from the stars in order to change their appearance and improve their lives. Christian warns Gwen that if Wish can’t control his powers things could go from bad to worse. And then one day, they do.
Set on an island off of the coast of New Jersey, Starstruck makes for a great beach read. Though I don’t love how Wish’s powers are only addressed in full in the second half of the book, Starstuck is redeemingly tinged with Gwen’s snarky and often sarcastic thoughts on life and the people around her. Gwen’s commentary makes Starstruck very relatable for anyone who has found themselves on the outside of the “in crowd,” especially when the in crowd seems to make up the whole school.
At times Gwen’s self depreciation gets a little grating; she spends a good amount of time in the book criticizing herself because of her weight, and wonders when Wish will dump her because he is now so attractive. A little self-criticism can help to build a character, but excess dialogue from Gwen on how Wish is only faking his love for her is tiring and, quite frankly, depressing.
As for the two male main characters, Wish and Christian, both are very enjoyable. Wish is charming in the compassion and feelings he has for his girlfriend that are not based on appearance alone. Christian is made likeable by his teasing nature, something Gwen immediately dislikes before coming to realize that Christian may be her greatest ally in a situation that she does not fully understand. In fact, many writers nowadays could learn a lesson or two from Ms. Balog and her ability to write two main male characters that do not want to rip each other’s throats out over the main female character.
Between the relatable, honest characters, comical language, and just a hint of magic, Starstruck is a great book arriving just in time for summer.
Emily Weaver enjoys museum galleries, wading in streams, and the more-than-occasional episode of anime. She also hopes to travel the world some day.