Book Reviews

[review] Starstruck – Cyn Balog

Release Date: July 12, 2011
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Gwendolyn “Dough” X doesn’t think she has much going for her—she carries a few extra pounds, her family struggles with their small bakery in a town full of millionaires, and the other kids at her New Jersey high school don’t seem to know that she exists. Thank the stars for her longtime boyfriend, Philip P. Wishman—or “Wish.” He moved away to California three years ago, when they were 13, but then professed his love for her via e-mail, and he’s been her long-distance BF ever since. 

At the beginning of her junior year, though, Wish e-mails that he’s moving back to Jersey. Great, right? Well, except that Dough has gained about 70 pounds since the last time Wish saw her, while Wish—according to his Facebook photos—has morphed into a blonde god. Convinced that she’ll be headed for Dumpsville the minute Wish lays eyes on her, Dough delays their meeting as long as she possibly can.

But when she sees Wish at school, something amazing happens. He looks at Dough like she’s just as gorgeous as he is. But Wish is acting a little weird, obsessed with the sun and freaked out by rain. And the creepy new guy working at the bakery, Christian, is convinced that there’s more to Wish’s good looks than just healthy eating and lots of sun. He tells Dough that a mark on Wish’s neck marks him as a member of the Luminati—an ancient cult of astrologers who can manipulate the stars to improve their lives. Is Wish and Dough’s love meant to be—or are they star-crossed?

Discovery: Cyn Balog’s first book, Fairy Tale, was a really fun read so I was excited to read her unique take on star-crossed lovers.

+     Supernatural twists. I’ve been reading fantasy/paranormal stories since I was a little girl, so I don’t often find supernatural stories that present something I haven’t seen before. I loved the idea of the Luminati. Everyone knows that the stars were mystified and worshipped, but Cyn Balog takes it a step further. I was especially intrigued by the idea that it’s really the stars that control us and not the other way around. That said, it was a little disappointing that the book barely scratched the surface of this belief and didn’t explore the history behind it. I don’t often ask for sequels, but I would really love to read another book focusing on the Luminati and the people that have given themselves up to this idea.

+    Positive attitude towards body image. It’s so refreshing to read a book where the heroine isn’t slim or skinny or “just not curvy enough.” Dough was an adorable narrator and I liked her confidence. While I am a little iffy about her decision to get skinny for Wish, it was nice to see that she doesn’t change her attitude. Christian was also a great character, reminding Dough that it doesn’t matter what you look like if someone loves you for who you are. It’s a difficult lesson to remember, but one worth repeating over and over again. Why hate yourself when there’s someone who found something to love in you?

–     Lackluster writing. I’ve noticed that Ms. Balog’s novels seem to get progressively shorter and I think that’s a big reason why the writing suffers. Some extra pages wouldn’t have hurt the novel, especially since some scenes end abruptly. I also didn’t get as much background information or exposition as I would have liked, which makes it difficult to sympathize with Wish. The big revelations happen in less than 10 pages near the end of the novel. Waiting for Wish to show up took up the first ten chapters. If I was impatient, I could have just skipped to the end and found out everything relevant to the plot. This disappoints me because I genuinely like Dough, Wish and Christian.

–     Romance. This is mostly related to the writing. I liked how Wish and Dough’s relationship was set up in the beginning of the story. However, it didn’t feel real once he actually arrived. There was more of a spark between Christian and Dough, and I found myself a little sad that they didn’t end up together. Wish is a great character for sure, but he just wasn’t developed enough to make me love him the way Dough seems to.

Recommendations: Starstruck is a light and fluffy book, which younger readers will enjoy and learn from.

Rating: Satisfactory.

Go check out Cyn Balog’s website and follow her on Twitter @cynbalog.

You can check out Starstruck on Goodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.

Next review:  Like Mandarin, Kirsten Hubbard


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