I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Stargazing by Jen Wang. Therefore, the version I read is just a proof and not the final version, so I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
Stargazing is Jen Wang’s first middle grade graphic novel about two young girls, Christine and Moon, who become unlikely friends. They plan to enter their school’s talent show together and start planning a dance routine. However, a disaster occurs, and Christine has to decide how to deal with the situation, or risk her friendship with Moon.
Just as in Wang’s fantastic YA debut The Prince and the Dressmaker, this story is so sweet and endearing. Her drawing style is lovely, expressive, and emotive. Since the version I read is an ARC, it was in black and white rather than color, but this didn’t lessen my enjoyment of her art at all.
The characters are fantastic. Moon is bold and confident, while Christine is quieter and sweet. Their bond is established and explored well; you root for their friendship to endure, despite the drama, jealousy, and revelations they face. Other side characters such as the girls’ parents and friends at school also are given strong, distinct personalities.
The plot is moving and full of love, pain, laughter, and hardship. Some of Moon’s story in particular might be a bit hard for more sensitive kids to handle—she and her mother struggle financially, she lost her father at a young age, and she deals with some medical problems—but in the end finds friends and hope. Overall, this is an uplifting book more than it is a sad one, though there are melancholy parts.
Themes of finding confidence in yourself and discovering your identity (particularly through the lens of being an Asian American, and what that means for your connection to your family’s culture and history) are brilliantly dealt with. These are complicated concepts, but are portrayed in such a way that young kids will still understand and connect with them.
In the end, Stargazing is a sweet story of friendship. In such a short time, Wang manages to incorporate many poignant concepts while still telling an entertaining tale. Elements of American and Chinese culture, as well as modern middle school drama, make a perfect backdrop for this story of two girls connecting and learning about each other and themselves.
Overall rating: 9/10