Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Review: Starstruck by Cyn Balog

Starstruck by Cyn Balog is a book that has me pulled in so many different directions, made me feel so many things, and tossed me around so much that everything kind of balanced the other stuff out and I'm left feeling a little more positive than neutral. Does that even make sense? Let me see if I can clarify a little here.

Gwendolyn (Dough) is the main character of the story and she is very overweight. Her younger sister is perfectly pretty, perfectly skinny and while it's clear that she does love her older sister, it's also pretty clear that she's a bit embarrassed by her. (And she feels bad about that too). Dough has no self-esteem. Like, at all. She constantly puts herself down, believes that everyone else is always watching her, just waiting to mock her and put her down as well. It was very hard to read and after a while, it just got plain annoying. I understand why her character was written the way that she was. It cannot be easy to be heavily overweight in high school, and it's got to be even harder when your younger sister is pretty much perfectly sized (and with bigger boobs... Where's the justice in that?!) So yes, it's hard. I get that. And I know that life is never as easy as 'just fix it'. Life doesn't work that way. But there are things you can do. There are things you can do to improve your life, your self image and pick yourself off the floor.

Reading Dough's thoughts over and over and over and over about how she was never good enough, how everyone made fun of her, how she could never be good/pretty/skinny/cool enough got tedious. If it's really that bad, if you really can't stand to be in your own skin, do something about it. Do something to change it. She starts to do that a little later in the book, because of the boyfriend, and she feels great about herself. She's in better clothes, took time on her hair and make-up and is interested in her appearance. But her self-esteem still yo-yos and it seems to be tied into the boyfriend and his friends, the very people who were so recently so rude to her, and it got tiresome to me.

My favorite times with Dough were when she was talking Christian, the new boy her mom hired to work in their bakery. He was such an interesting character, someone that I personally found to be far more interesting than Wish — the actual boyfriend — and he didn't tiptoe around Dough either. He called it like he saw it, acknowledged her weight, said — so what, who cares — and moved on. He treated her like a real person, not like a caricature or a stereotype and so when she was around him, she acted more like a regular person.

Wish, the boyfriend kind of bored my, to be honest. I never really felt much of anything for or about him. I know I should have, but I didn't. And I hated how Dough put herself down extra hard around him, always waiting for him to dump her, say that he didn't really want to or just really couldn't be with her. And she preempted that a few times too. She jumped in with the — I know you are going to dump me so let's just get it over with — comments on a regular basis, and I don't really know too many guys who aren't eventually going to say — to heck with it, I'm tired of dealing with this every time we try to talk.

Although I really struggled finding a connection to Dough, especially in the beginning, I did really enjoy the story and I do believe that Dough grew and changed a lot of the course of the book. She starts to learn more about herself and build up her confidence. Ya, it's pretty slow, but it is there, and it is happening. And I liked it. I liked watching her come more into her own, learn a little more about herself and accept that she really can be happy as she is.

I also really enjoyed the supernatural element to the story. I knew it was coming (which is usually essential for me — nothing worse than having magic or something pop-up in the middle of what I thought was my good old fashioned contemporary!) and while I didn't know exactly what the magic was going to be, or how it would work out, I liked watching Dough figure it out. The magical element brings up a lot of questions and thoughts about what it means to be beautiful and just how far we, as a society and as individuals are willing to go to get it. (I don't think that's a spoiler... I had figured out the gist of that from the blurb on the back.)

The moments of self discover in this book are really what make it worth reading are what make it a strong novel rather than just a fun read. There were also a lot of thoughts, a lot of quotes that I really enjoyed while reading. Just phrases here and there that make you think, make you wonder, makes you question how you are living and if it's really what you want from life.

*Disclaimer — I won a copy of this book from a contest the author hosted on her blog. Thanks Cyn!:)