Book Review: Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner

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Published in 2019 by Candlewick Press.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction.

Page Count: 335

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Sypnosis from Goodreads:

Sam Jones and Zoe Miller have one thing in common: they both want an escape from reality. Loner Sam flies under the radar at school and walks on eggshells at home to manage her mom’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, wondering how she can ever leave to pursue her dream of studying aerospace engineering. Popular, people-pleasing Zoe puts up walls so no one can see her true self: the girl who was abandoned as an infant, whose adoptive mother has cancer, and whose disabled brother is being sent away to live in a facility. When an unexpected encounter results in the girls’ exchanging phone numbers, they forge a connection through text messages that expands into a private universe they call Starworld. In Starworld, they find hilarious adventures, kindness and understanding, and the magic of being seen for who they really are. But when Sam’s feelings for Zoe turn into something more, will the universe they’ve built survive the inevitable explosion?

My Review:

This is tricky to write, because practically for the past evening and right up until I finished this book about 15 minutes ago, every fibre of my being was wholly invested in both of these girls, their alternate world of escapism that they created, their unique relationship that was blooming between them both, the hope that both of them grew to develop, their sense of identity that both grew into…

Yet, after everything, I can’t help but feel disappointed? I mean I love Audrey Coulthurst’s Of Fire and Stars and absolutely cannot wait to read her Inkmistress and newly released Of Ice and Shadows, so maybe I was expecting Sam and Zoe to have more of a Mare and Denna type relationship?

I mean, don’t get me wrong though, their friendship was absolutely adorable and completely heartfelt, I just feel amazed that Zoe was able to confide so much in Sam without establishing any sense of feelings for her? I mean, Zoe had refused to open up to her own closest friends because she feels like all of their lives are perfect, compared to her own sense of not being wanted by her birth mother, not being the miracle child that her little brother is, not belonging anywhere – then in sweeps the amazing Sam with her fantastical imagination, I mean I felt right away how much Sam was instantly head over heels mad for Zoe, I mean she creates these gorgeous interactions between them both, Starworld (title significance on point, my heart!), where they create worlds and galaxies fuelled by a love of escapism and a dragon named Humphrey. I utterly loved their escape from reality into their intergalactic realm, and I absolutely adored the seemingly robotic at heart Sam, I loved how she spoke in integers, I mean she reminded me of a female and far less obnoxious Sheldon Cooper!

However, as I reflect about Starworld, I feel that despite Zoe divulging everything that there is to know about her troubles family and her seemingly lack of significance in life, despite her saying how much she loves her brother (and struggles to come to terms with his disability, saying to the reader and Sam that she laments not being able to have friends over, doesn’t like the idea of him going to a specialist care home, but knowing her life can resume some sense of being), I feel that Zoe just took Sam for granted!

I’m going to a bit spoilery now, so if you haven’t read this novel yet and don’t want to be spoilt, then by all means don’t read on.

I just don’t understand how Zoe didn’t see the kiss coming! I think, okay I know that Zoe didn’t ever say she was straight or bi or anything, and I mean I tell my friends that I love them, because I do – but what I don’t do is do what Sam did and blurt it out right in the middle of one of their Starworld escapades!

It’s no wonder Sam was compelled to think that maybe the girl that she found herself pouring her heart out to, creating these worlds and even drawing a majestic bird image for her Zoe’s brother, might feel the same way!

I will admit though that the friendship was beautiful, I mean it’s what had me so invested throughout! Zoe finds herself opening up to Sam, and vice versa too, I think Sam is able to address the fact that her mum’s OCD is not a traditional way of living, and I just thought it was super cute that Zoe makes symmetrical numbered biscuits for Sam as a peace offering for when the former’s friends start making fun of Sam and her seemingly freakish ways. Like, I personally thought Zoe’s friends were so self indulgent, only wanting to have parties and get hammered and worry about what their wearing to the dance (okay I’m pointing fingers here because Zoe’s best friend did try to help her and I think she may have meant well initially, but still!). Also, I didn’t see Zoe stand up for Sam when her friends were making fun and that just wasn’t nice at all!

Despite my seemingly disgruntled tone, Starworld is a story that will definitely stay in my mind for a while to come! And now I’m even more excited to return to my favourite gay Princesses, Denna and Mare!

Happy Reading,


Q: are you a fan of Audrey Coulthurst? Have you read Starworld? Let’s chat! 🙂

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