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An exploration of fate and female agency in a world very similar to our own--except that the markings on women's bodies reveal the future. A piercing indictment of rape culture, a read about what happens when women are objectified and stripped of choice--and what happens when they fight back. Celeste Morton has eagerly awaited her passage to adulthood. Like every girl, she An exploration of fate and female agency in a world very similar to our own--except that the markings on women's bodies reveal the future. A piercing indictment of rape culture, a read about what happens when women are objectified and stripped of choice--and what happens when they fight back. Celeste Morton has eagerly awaited her passage to adulthood. Like every girl, she was born with a set of childhood markings--the freckles, moles, and birthmarks on her body that foretell her future and that of those around her--and with puberty will come a new set of predictions that will solidify her fate. The possibilities are tantalizing enough to outweigh the worry that the future she dreams of won't be the one she's fated to have and the fear of her "changeling period" the time when women are nearly irresistible to men and the risk of abduction is rife. Celeste's beloved brother, Miles, is equally anticipating her transition to adulthood. As a skilled interpreter of the future, a field that typically excludes men, Miles considers Celeste his practice ground--and the only clue to what his own future will bring. But when Celeste changes, she learns a devastating secret about Miles's fate: a secret that could destroy her family, a secret she will do anything to keep. Yet Celeste isn't the only one keeping secrets, and when the lies of brother and sister collide, it leads to a tragedy that will irrevocably change Celeste's fate, set her on a path to fight against the inherent misogyny of fortune-telling, and urge her to create a future that is truly her own.


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An exploration of fate and female agency in a world very similar to our own--except that the markings on women's bodies reveal the future. A piercing indictment of rape culture, a read about what happens when women are objectified and stripped of choice--and what happens when they fight back. Celeste Morton has eagerly awaited her passage to adulthood. Like every girl, she An exploration of fate and female agency in a world very similar to our own--except that the markings on women's bodies reveal the future. A piercing indictment of rape culture, a read about what happens when women are objectified and stripped of choice--and what happens when they fight back. Celeste Morton has eagerly awaited her passage to adulthood. Like every girl, she was born with a set of childhood markings--the freckles, moles, and birthmarks on her body that foretell her future and that of those around her--and with puberty will come a new set of predictions that will solidify her fate. The possibilities are tantalizing enough to outweigh the worry that the future she dreams of won't be the one she's fated to have and the fear of her "changeling period" the time when women are nearly irresistible to men and the risk of abduction is rife. Celeste's beloved brother, Miles, is equally anticipating her transition to adulthood. As a skilled interpreter of the future, a field that typically excludes men, Miles considers Celeste his practice ground--and the only clue to what his own future will bring. But when Celeste changes, she learns a devastating secret about Miles's fate: a secret that could destroy her family, a secret she will do anything to keep. Yet Celeste isn't the only one keeping secrets, and when the lies of brother and sister collide, it leads to a tragedy that will irrevocably change Celeste's fate, set her on a path to fight against the inherent misogyny of fortune-telling, and urge her to create a future that is truly her own.

30 review for Body of Stars

  1. 4 out of 5

    ☼ Sarah ☼

    🌻 This review can also be found here on my blog! 🌻 I received a free e-ARC of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Hodder & Stoughton! I've had the pleasure of reviewing books on Netgalley for almost a year now (??!!), and in that time, I've come across some great books — but only a handful of those have made me want to run to Amazon for a preorder as soon as I finished them. Body of Stars, Laura Maylene Walter's scintillating debut novel, is the latest of those. With he 🌻 This review can also be found here on my blog! 🌻 I received a free e-ARC of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Hodder & Stoughton! I've had the pleasure of reviewing books on Netgalley for almost a year now (??!!), and in that time, I've come across some great books — but only a handful of those have made me want to run to Amazon for a preorder as soon as I finished them. Body of Stars, Laura Maylene Walter's scintillating debut novel, is the latest of those. With her beautiful, lyrical prose and searing takedowns of the misogyny ingrained in our society, Walter sucked me into her dystopian fantasy universe and wouldn't let me go until I'd turned the last page. I could gush on and on, but in short, this one feels like it really means something and I'd love to see a copy in everyone's hands, so feel free to imagine that the rest of this review is just me holding up a sign that says 'READ IT!' in big glittery letters! Part of what makes Body of Stars so hard-hitting is that it takes place in a world that could be our own, with one crucial difference: all girls are born with freckles and moles that foretell every little detail of their futures. These marks, all outlined in a heavy book called Mapping the Future: An Interpretative Guide to Women and Girls, will tell you what your career will be, if and when you'll fall ill as a child, if you'll ever get married, and whether your children will be boys or girls... if you're fated to have any at all. I found this to be such a fascinating yet eerie idea — what if your body could tell your entire future like that, and what if everyone around you knew it, too? What if you didn't want children but were fated to have two, or you longed to be a mother but had no markings to suggest you'd become one? Walter goes a step further and imagines countries where girls whose markings indicate they'll be homemakers are denied access to education, which struck me as a clever critique of how women's choices are limited by bodies that are never fully seen as theirs. Around the age of fifteen or sixteen, girls in the Body of Stars universe will enter their changeling period, where they’ll get their adult markings (and their fates set in stone), and where they’ll be almost irresistible to men, making abductions an ever-present threat. In a bleak parallel to real life, girls who’ve been abducted are treated like what happened to them was their fault. The crimes committed against them are brushed off as just an unfortunate thing that happens now and then, but for the victims, their entire lives are affected: they’ll have to undergo a humiliating rehabilitation course that treats them as broken, they’ll no longer be allowed to go to university, and their abductors may copy out their marks and likenesses onto ornate tarot cards for distribution without their consent. These things are a dark mirror turned to face our society, shining a light on the treatment of women and girls from an approachable distance that nonetheless refuses to let us shy away. Fifteen-year-old Celeste Morton looks forward to changing and finding out if she’ll ever get her dream job, but like many girls, she’s aware of the dangers that have been drummed into her since early childhood but doesn’t think they’d ever happen to her. Without giving too much away, I’ve seen a few reviewers express disappointment that this one isn’t a punchy smash-the-patriarchy novel but more slow-paced and reflective, and I get it — Celeste isn’t a Katniss but an average girl doing what she can to survive in a world tilted against her, and these kinds of books can be tricky because seeing a heroine take down misogyny for good can be a much-needed form of catharsis. For me, Celeste’s averageness makes the story all the more powerful, and Body of Stars shows us how even the smallest changes can one day become revolutionary, how ripples can grow into waves, and how one girl’s life improved can eventually broaden into many. Amidst all of the frustrating, angering elements here, there’s so much hope, both for us and Celeste — and if you’re anything like me, you might come away thinking “what can I do about it?” and ready to at least try. There’s so much more I could say about this book; I feel like I’ve barely even scratched the surface! I’ve skipped over so many details and several important plotlines because I don’t want to spoil anything, which is rare for me, a certified spoiler-lover who looks up the plot of movies before she watches them. All in all, though, Body of Stars is a luminous, dazzling, thought-provoking story to make you angry and to make you a fierce feminist (if you weren’t already), and I have no doubt that it will be one of my favourites of the year!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    "Vox meets The Immortalists in this bold and dazzling exploration of fate and female agency in a world where women own the future but not their own bodies." The world of this book is one very close to our own, but with one small difference. Here, the skin blemishes available on women's bodies are used to fix them to a certain life. The constellations of moles and markings are read like the stars, used to assign their fate and disallow them access to certain futures no matter how much the mind mig "Vox meets The Immortalists in this bold and dazzling exploration of fate and female agency in a world where women own the future but not their own bodies." The world of this book is one very close to our own, but with one small difference. Here, the skin blemishes available on women's bodies are used to fix them to a certain life. The constellations of moles and markings are read like the stars, used to assign their fate and disallow them access to certain futures no matter how much the mind might will it another way. I was tempted to read this book due to the gorgeous cover design and intriguing title. The contents proved just as startling and with just as much interpretation allowed it as the skin of the females who peppered the text. The lyrical prose provided a beauty and a grace even when the actions they depicted were abhorrent in nature and featured disgusting displays of sexism and misogyny. The juxtaposition of the two only added to the power of what this story revealed, and for every flowery sentiment a thorn lurked in its midst. This was a story that featured, in every element, both beauty and power. Laura Maylene Walter proved that these were far from the binaries the society depicted would have the individual believe, as the presence of the former did not denote an absence of the latter.

  3. 5 out of 5

    AnnaLuce

    DNF If you fancy some flowery misery porn that offers a vision of the world similar to The Handmaid's Tale, Vox, The Water Cure (ie women are oppressed) you might end up appreciating Body of Stars more than I was able. Purply prose aside I just did not buy into the whole in this future/reality women have freckles all over their bodies that predict their futures (from how many children they will have to their career). Seriously? Definitely not my cup of tea. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange f DNF If you fancy some flowery misery porn that offers a vision of the world similar to The Handmaid's Tale, Vox, The Water Cure (ie women are oppressed) you might end up appreciating Body of Stars more than I was able. Purply prose aside I just did not buy into the whole in this future/reality women have freckles all over their bodies that predict their futures (from how many children they will have to their career). Seriously? Definitely not my cup of tea. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Body of Stars is a bold and dazzling exploration of fate and female agency in a world very similar to our own--except that the markings on women's bodies reveal the future. Debut novelist Laura Maylene Walter has penned a captivating, unique and timely piece on the issues of girlhood, womanhood and toxic masculinity. Celeste Morton has eagerly awaited her passage to adulthood. Like every girl, she was born with a set of childhood markings--a constellation of freckles, moles, and birthmarks on he Body of Stars is a bold and dazzling exploration of fate and female agency in a world very similar to our own--except that the markings on women's bodies reveal the future. Debut novelist Laura Maylene Walter has penned a captivating, unique and timely piece on the issues of girlhood, womanhood and toxic masculinity. Celeste Morton has eagerly awaited her passage to adulthood. Like every girl, she was born with a set of childhood markings--a constellation of freckles, moles, and birthmarks on her body that foretell her future and that of those around her--and with puberty will come a new set of predictions that will solidify her fate. The possibilities are tantalizing enough to outweigh the worry that the future she dreams of won't be the one she's fated to have and the fear of her "changeling period" — a week-long phase when women are nearly irresistible to men and the risk of ”being taken”, which includes abduction and rape, is rife. If as a young woman you are subjected to an attack of this nature it is deemed your fault for being too alluring and the act doesn't constitute a criminal offence, so the perpetrator goes unpunished. Celeste's beloved brother, Miles, is equally anticipating her transition to adulthood. As a skilled interpreter of the future, Miles aspires to be a professional interpreter of girls’ markings, a field that typically excludes men, and considers Celeste his practice ground--and the only clue to what his own future will bring. Once Celeste transitions into adulthood she will be condemned to nothingness and treated as second class citizens - no more education and subjugation are what lie ahead. But when Celeste changes, she learns a devastating secret about Miles's fate that contradict Miles’s prophecies: a secret that could destroy her family, a secret she will do anything to keep. She is foretold Miles will die aged only 21. Then Celeste is kidnapped by two men and is forced to enrol at a rehabilitation centre after waking up after the ambush in hospital her battered body covered in bruises. Yet Celeste isn't the only one keeping secrets, and when the lies of brother and sister collide, it leads to a tragedy that will irrevocably change Celeste's fate, set her on a path to fight against the inherent misogyny of fortune-telling and urge her to create a future that is truly her own. A cross between literary fiction and dark fantasy, Walter has woven an intricate and richly-imagined world where misogyny and gendered oppression reign supreme. It is the tender coming-of-age of Celeste who quickly realises the unfairness and inequality between the sexes and hopes to mount a fightback encouraging her sisters in arms to join her in kickstarting an important revolution in which she seeks freedom and the right to self-determination. Through a deeply dystopian lens, we are shown a complex, multidimensional world not so different from our own and asked through quiet reflection to see its faults. It's powerful, heartbreaking and does not shy away from addressing unsettling topics at the heart of egalitarian debate. The prose is lyrical and perhaps on the verge of becoming purple but manages to captivate throughout. This is a bewitching, thought-provoking allegory of our world and the aspects we should seek to change about it. Highly recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    I devoured this book in one sitting and I can sum up my feelings by telling you I was desperate to highlight lines but didn’t because I felt like I was holding a book that was going to make history in my hands. This is one of the most stunning metaphors for rape culture and the lack of agency women have of their own bodies I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I was simultaneously engrossed in the story and also constantly aware that I was reading a book that really meant something. I was hor I devoured this book in one sitting and I can sum up my feelings by telling you I was desperate to highlight lines but didn’t because I felt like I was holding a book that was going to make history in my hands. This is one of the most stunning metaphors for rape culture and the lack of agency women have of their own bodies I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I was simultaneously engrossed in the story and also constantly aware that I was reading a book that really meant something. I was horrified, moved and touched. I saw the society we live in today reflected in the pages and instead of making me sad it gave me hope. Women will change the world.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Thais • tata.lifepages •

    Body of Stars is a very original dystopian novel, that takes place in a world where all women have their bodies marked as a map for their future life. I loved the drawings of the marks included in the story which made it even easier to visualize. We are presented to Celeste, a teenage girl who’s life is completely predicted in her marks, and her brother Miles. I kept wondering if those predictions of the future were a gift or a curse? To me it seems a little bit of both, since from the beginning Body of Stars is a very original dystopian novel, that takes place in a world where all women have their bodies marked as a map for their future life. I loved the drawings of the marks included in the story which made it even easier to visualize. We are presented to Celeste, a teenage girl who’s life is completely predicted in her marks, and her brother Miles. I kept wondering if those predictions of the future were a gift or a curse? To me it seems a little bit of both, since from the beginning the main character suffered trying to understand it. In the story there is a book, Mapping the Future: An Interpretive Guide to Women and Girls, that shows the rules for these interpretations, but they are not always clear or complete. Both characters got their lives touched by it first as students, and later as working adults to learn more about these interpretations. The story has a harsh view of women's rights and duties. This book of rules dominates their lives, and while that men are kept in the dark since they don’t have marks nor they are allowed to it’s interpretations. A strict line is drawn between the lives of men and women, which had Celeste wanting more of their world, and had me rooting for her while reading.

  7. 4 out of 5

    leah

    3.5/4 i received an advanced copy of this book from @hodder_studio so thank you so much!! ‘body of stars’ is set in an alternate/dystopian world where girls are born with markings (moles/freckles) that foretell their futures. once they reach their 15th birthday, the girls enter a ‘changeling’ period where their adult markings are revealed, their skin mapping out their adult lives. during this time, the girls become irresistible to men around them and the risk of abduction is at an all-time high. 3.5/4 i received an advanced copy of this book from @hodder_studio so thank you so much!! ‘body of stars’ is set in an alternate/dystopian world where girls are born with markings (moles/freckles) that foretell their futures. once they reach their 15th birthday, the girls enter a ‘changeling’ period where their adult markings are revealed, their skin mapping out their adult lives. during this time, the girls become irresistible to men around them and the risk of abduction is at an all-time high. if the girls are abducted, they’re returned with their reputations sullied and their futures ruined. we mainly follow celeste, a girl on the cusp of her changeling period, and her brother miles, who’s working on becoming an interpreter to read the girls’ markings. i saw this book was marked as ‘fantasy’ which made me hesitant at first, but upon reading i actually really enjoyed it! i definitely think it leaned more towards the dystopian genre, which i used to read a lot of when i was younger so it really took me back to that. for me, the book felt like a timely allegory on rape culture and the ways victims are treated in society. the girls in the book are constantly told what to do in order to avoid being abducted, which is very reminiscent of all the things that girls in our society are told as we grow up e.g. don’t wear revealing clothes, don’t walk alone at night etc. it shines a light on how girls and women have to take so many precautions to ensure their safety, but yet are still blamed for any violence enacted against them anyway. i also enjoyed the interesting sibling bond that was explored in this book, as well as the message of how important education is as celeste’s worldview really changes once she’s taught more about the world. i was pleasantly surprised by this book as i don’t delve into this genre much, so if you’re looking for a feminist dystopian/light fantasy, then i’d recommend picking it up on the 18th march

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bertie (LuminosityLibrary)

    Review to come! I'm not sure what to rate this one so you might see it going up. This was an interesting look into a dystopian universe, with a strong focus on misogyny and especially rape culture. However, it also left me unsatisfied. The story revolved so strongly around the brother, and I didn't care for him, so a lot of the emotional impact of his involvement wasn't there. Review to come! I'm not sure what to rate this one so you might see it going up. This was an interesting look into a dystopian universe, with a strong focus on misogyny and especially rape culture. However, it also left me unsatisfied. The story revolved so strongly around the brother, and I didn't care for him, so a lot of the emotional impact of his involvement wasn't there.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    BODY OF STARS by Laura Maylene Walter just wasn’t for me at all. I had seen this one on Dutton Books Instagram as a read now on NetGalley and from their caption I was interested. If I had known it was a dystopian fiction then I wouldn’t have even decided to read it in the first place. This book further confirms that I don’t enjoy dystopian books. I had read a couple last year and they were alright but this one pushes it to the extreme and I just powered through reading it. I wasn’t at all curiou BODY OF STARS by Laura Maylene Walter just wasn’t for me at all. I had seen this one on Dutton Books Instagram as a read now on NetGalley and from their caption I was interested. If I had known it was a dystopian fiction then I wouldn’t have even decided to read it in the first place. This book further confirms that I don’t enjoy dystopian books. I had read a couple last year and they were alright but this one pushes it to the extreme and I just powered through reading it. I wasn’t at all curious how it would end and I really didn’t care for the ending. Right away I couldn’t get past how women were treated in this book. They had to submit to inspections of their bodies during puberty and fear abduction and rape. If you’re a fan of this genre then you’ll probably love this book. I’m kinda still hopeful one day a dystopian book will surprise me. . Thank you to Dutton Books via NetGalley for my advance review copy!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amy Burt

    This book has a really interesting premise, with girls having marks (freckles essentially) on their bodies that predict and determine their futures, these are monitored and recorded, with women tasked as interpreters who mark these against a number of things like their career, their love life/future family, even losses they may face. All girls will wake up one day and suddenly are ‘in between’ girl and womanhood, where they will be at their most desirable (and most at risk), a time incredibly da This book has a really interesting premise, with girls having marks (freckles essentially) on their bodies that predict and determine their futures, these are monitored and recorded, with women tasked as interpreters who mark these against a number of things like their career, their love life/future family, even losses they may face. All girls will wake up one day and suddenly are ‘in between’ girl and womanhood, where they will be at their most desirable (and most at risk), a time incredibly dangerous for them where they risk being abducted by men who cannot resist them and are ruined by them. Upon their return, usually weeks later, they are blamed and forever stained by this encounter, with university and other opportunities no longer available to them. Body of Stars follows Celeste, a girl who any day will face the ‘in between’ stage, her brother Miles wishes badly to be an Interpreter however this is deemed a woman’s job. When Celeste changes, her marks predict a fate for Miles that terrifies Celeste, however she herself has danger in front of her to face. I don’t know how I felt about this book, it’s an interesting concept and is clever in how it looks at rape culture, political and societal autonomy over women’s bodies and toxic masculinity, although unfortunately it’s one of those books where the people who read this will already know this area is a cesspit for women’s rights and the people who need to learn this won’t be the ones reading this. As such, this book is just a brutal reminder and doesn’t essentially feel empowering and will leave you feeling outraged because we see every day women both valued, controlled and condemned with their bodies by men and a male led society. In this book, raped girls are spat on and shunned while also being blamed for seducing men, or being alone with a man, or being attractive to men, and I needed a lot more in the conclusion of this book to really get past that. That said, this isn’t a criticism of the book, if a magic wand could be waved, this book wouldn’t have felt real. That said, I can imagine this book being hugely triggering so please be careful. My main issue with this book is more the involvement of Miles, I just didn’t really need that much of him in the story or to give him that much of an important role. Throughout the book Celeste’s brother feels incredibly entitled, this is a world where men can literally do anything but one thing; be an interpreter, and yet he acts so sullen about it. He also resents that he doesn’t have marks and a future laid out for him, like freedom and a blank canvas is so awful. While the first point is later explained a little more, it still doesn’t change the fact he’s a man who wants it all and doesn’t understand ‘no’, this is further shown when he doesn’t understand why Celeste won’t show him her new marks and so drags her into an alley, restrains her and attempts to lift her clothes to see her body. While he feels bad later for this, 1) Celeste lets him off way too much for this and 2) a dialogue was severely missed here where consent could have been explored and discussed with literally the only man in the book who would’ve listened. That was frustrating and hard to get by, as much as Miles is trying to do something good, he still asserted himself and his strength over a woman and tried to take consent from her regarding access to her own body and it deserved a bigger conversation about make entitlement and the different stages of sexual abuse and toxicity. Miles aside, this is an interesting book and concept, just prepare yourself to be outraged a lot.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Books0507_Ashley

    Body of Stars follows Celeste a young girl awaiting her passage into adulthood. All girls are born with markings upon their body that sets out their future path and their family's. Every girl is born with her own markings to predict the future but once they move into adulthood their markings change and a new set of predications confirm their fate. During their transition into womanhood the 'changeling period' they become irresistible to men, which puts them in danger of abduction and having to s Body of Stars follows Celeste a young girl awaiting her passage into adulthood. All girls are born with markings upon their body that sets out their future path and their family's. Every girl is born with her own markings to predict the future but once they move into adulthood their markings change and a new set of predications confirm their fate. During their transition into womanhood the 'changeling period' they become irresistible to men, which puts them in danger of abduction and having to suffer through a trauma that will effect them for the rest of their life's. Celesete's brother is a skilled interpreter of markings and becomes obsessed with wanting to read Celeste's adult markings. Celeste after doing her own reading discovers a devastating fate, a secret she tries to keep from her family. A secret that causes tragedy by keeping. Imagine knowing what the future holds and being unable to stop it. There's some serious topics covered throughout such as abduction, rape, victim blaming, while the predators get away with everything and there's no real commitment to ever see justice. It's just accepted that men will do terrible things to Changeling Girls. Some of the topics were uncomfortable to read, there's one particular scene between father and daughter that had me cringing, I'm not sure that added to the story at all. When I read the blurb for this one I was instantly intrigued. Unfourtenly I think it just wasn't for me. While I enjoyed the concept and the writing, it was cleverly done, I just found it too slow paced. I was contemplating giving up around 40% in but then it picked up for a while and then slowed back down so I had to really power through to the end, which left me unsatisfied. I'm a big character reader and for me the characters in this just felt a little flat. I wasn't invested in anyone to really care enough about what was going on. This is a 2 star for me, I didn't hate this, but It was just to slow paced and I think in the end the story just wasn't for me. Thank you to NetGalley & Hodder & Stoughton for a advanced copy of this.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Merissa (Archaeolibrarian)

    BODY OF STARS is the debut novel by this author, and she dives into the world of women's rights, consent, male toxicity, you name it. Essentially, women are born with one set of marks on their body that is mapped out by interpreters, but is also open to interpretation as they grow. This proves that fate can be altered, but only to an extent. There is a time when a girl becomes a woman when she is called a changeling. This is a dangerous time for a woman, as she becomes irresistible to men, and a BODY OF STARS is the debut novel by this author, and she dives into the world of women's rights, consent, male toxicity, you name it. Essentially, women are born with one set of marks on their body that is mapped out by interpreters, but is also open to interpretation as they grow. This proves that fate can be altered, but only to an extent. There is a time when a girl becomes a woman when she is called a changeling. This is a dangerous time for a woman, as she becomes irresistible to men, and abductions are rife. However, if a woman IS taken, then the shame is all on her. Celeste is one of these girls, and her brother, Miles, knew it would happen. This book dives into the relationship between this pair, and also the familial relationship within the boundaries of the markings. Whilst enjoying the story and seeing Celeste develop, she still remained a 'quiet' character to me. Miles is the other main character, but he spends most of his time complaining about how he doesn't have any marks, or making himself high. I would have preferred a bit more character development in the supporting cast. The mother is fleshed out a bit more, but we know next to nothing about the father, except for where it is relevant to the current story. I would have liked to have known more about Marie's mother, Marie, and Louise. Cassie, I didn't like, so I'm really not bothered that she wasn't given much space. I think this was a great debut novel, and I did enjoy it and have no hesitation in recommending it. * A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. * Merissa Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elin

    Thank you Dutton Book Publishers (an imprint of Penguin Random House) an ARC of Body of Stars via NetGalley. Body of Stars is a coming of age exploration of fate in a dystopian world similar to our own. The constellation like markings on the female body which reveal their futures, is a fate that can't be escaped. Celeste is a teenager navigating a life that's already predetermined based on these interpretations. On the cusp of puberty, the changeling phase, she fears being kidnapped - a common oc Thank you Dutton Book Publishers (an imprint of Penguin Random House) an ARC of Body of Stars via NetGalley. Body of Stars is a coming of age exploration of fate in a dystopian world similar to our own. The constellation like markings on the female body which reveal their futures, is a fate that can't be escaped. Celeste is a teenager navigating a life that's already predetermined based on these interpretations. On the cusp of puberty, the changeling phase, she fears being kidnapped - a common occurrence for changelings, when the girls become irresistible to men. This period in their life puts them in danger of a severe trauma that effects them for the rest of their lives. An interesting debut for Walter. She touches on important subjects of gender equality, oppression and rape culture. Her interpretation of the female body can be seen as a celebration that explores beauty and victimization. With that said, this book was not for me. The casual way rape is accepted in this dystopian world is disturbing to read from the start. Aside from the slow pace of the story, I didn't really find myself connecting with the characters, their development was a bit shallow and didn't really grasp my attention. Overall, Walter creates an interesting world full of detail but something didn't crack through the surface for me.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    The publication of this powerful allegory about women’s control over their bodies and their destiny could not be more timely, coming in the week of the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard in London and the staggering police mishandling of the peaceful vigils held in its wake. Celeste is a fifteen-year-old living with her parents and brother Miles in a parallel world where girls are born with a unique pattern of markings all over their body which foretell their future. Interpretation is an art, The publication of this powerful allegory about women’s control over their bodies and their destiny could not be more timely, coming in the week of the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard in London and the staggering police mishandling of the peaceful vigils held in its wake. Celeste is a fifteen-year-old living with her parents and brother Miles in a parallel world where girls are born with a unique pattern of markings all over their body which foretell their future. Interpretation is an art, performed to a high level by a few skilled women but to a basic degree by almost everyone. Clusters of moles, freckles and birthmarks on different parts of the body foretell such things as mental acuity, fitness, health and disease, personality, academic achievement, type of career, finances, love and family, transition and change, and compassion. Girls and women can be read like a map, and they accept from an early age that their bodies are accessible to others for this purpose, guided by the ubiquitous tome entitled Mapping the Future: An Interpretive Guide to Women and Girls. At the age of around sixteen, childhood patterns change overnight to permanent adult markings, and for the few weeks or months of their transition to adulthood girls give off an irresistible allure, a vitality and energy, which all around them are susceptible to, but especially men who feel it as a powerful sexual attraction. It is a rite of passage for fathers to examine their newly changed daughters' adult markings, it is a Saturday night entertainment to visit the charlatan interpreters downtown for a laugh, and a woman's body is very much not her own. Modest women, who cover up their markings, are viewed as an old-fashioned oddity. This alternative universe presents itself as one where women are empowered by knowing their fate, and men feel unlucky not to have the same certainties. Celeste and Miles, two years older, are a close-knit unit and at first their lives seem no different to teenagers in our world - they see their friends, go to school, take evening classes, play games. But as Celeste approaches her time of change, a darker world comes to the fore. One where girls in their changeling period are hugely vulnerable as their new-found vitality and the allure they give off put them at great risk of abduction - 'when it came to changelings, men could not control themselves'. Nobody really knows, or at least is willing to say, what happens, and returned girls have no memory of events. But in the larger, more progressive towns getting a birth control shot after changing is a priority; abduction is assumed to happen mainly to girls who are bold or reckless or from damaged families; and returned girls are ostracised, regarded as ruined by their community, shamed and humiliated, unable to get into university, often having to leave their families and start over somewhere far away, always with their status as abductees on file to blight their futures. And in the weeks and months to come, their markings, their unique identity, often turn up as forbidden exotica or erotica in the form of tarot cards, posters and other images for circulation, in the ultimate invasion of privacy - their unique identity stolen and sold. The only way to recover any memory of their abductors or their ordeal is by using a drug, but that renders their testimony inadmissible. So the perpetrators are never sought or prosecuted, and the blame, responsibility and consequences are carried solely by the girls, for a lifetime. As Celeste puts it towards the end of the novel, 'we were made vulnerable through no fault of our own and held liable for the crimes committed against us. We were born already broken.' This is a story about challenging the norms and assumptions of a society, of learning that change can only come about slowly, discreetly, one small cultural challenge at a time. Miles, most unusually for a male, is not only interested in interpretation but is skilled at it. However he can only learn and practice clandestinely, as the Office for The Future will not accept that a male interpreter can be a thing, and as a male he must work twice as hard to be taken half as seriously. His teacher Julia tells Celeste that although her future will undeniably and inevitably come for her, her own actions can make a difference. Within a world of absolute prediction, there is still free will, 'like wind moving through the leaves of a tree'. This means nothing to Celeste at the time - but when it turns out that Miles has found a pattern of freckles that can predict which girls will be taken, dare we hope that the scene is set for a change from an attitude of blaming and labelling abducted girls, to addressing the root problem of the men who perpetrate the atrocities? This book is a compelling read, well written, and although dystopian ends on a strong note of hope for change. I thought the narrative became a bit rushed towards the end, with the Mountain School section in particular feeling far too short for the importance it has in shaping Celeste's future. Overall however, with the #MeToo debates of the past few years and this week's abduction and murder in the UK along with the unbelievably insensitive response to vigils up and down the country, this novel is a sobering and timely reflection on how women are made complicit in their victimhood, how their agency over their bodies is constantly threatened, and how this must be challenged over and over and over, till it is no longer true.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lauren loves llamas

    Content warnings: (view spoiler)[rampant patriarchy (a la Handmaid’s Tale), misogyny, rape (on-page), abduction, assault, victim-blaming and shaming, alcohol, drug abuse (fictional drug) (hide spoiler)] I was intrigued by this book’s blurb, and went in knowing that it was a dystopian novel that dealt with rape culture and the patriarchy. Unfortunately, this book didn’t work out that well for me. The book is set in a dystopian culture where the freckles on women’s bodies foretell the future: their Content warnings: (view spoiler)[rampant patriarchy (a la Handmaid’s Tale), misogyny, rape (on-page), abduction, assault, victim-blaming and shaming, alcohol, drug abuse (fictional drug) (hide spoiler)] I was intrigued by this book’s blurb, and went in knowing that it was a dystopian novel that dealt with rape culture and the patriarchy. Unfortunately, this book didn’t work out that well for me. The book is set in a dystopian culture where the freckles on women’s bodies foretell the future: their careers, their families, down to how many children they’ll have, and also glimpses of the rest of the family’s future. They’re born with children’s markings, which, while still true, tend to be vague, and then around their fifteenth birthday they suddenly wake up with their adult markings. They also enter the changeling period, where their senses are heightened and they’re nearly irresistible to men, leading to abductions and assault. Girls who are abducted are viewed as pariahs, as obviously it was some moral failing that allowed them to be abducted, and are generally unable to attend college or pursue most careers. The book starts with Celeste as she’s anxiously awaiting her change to an adult. Celeste and her brother Miles are nearly inseparable, or at least that’s what she thinks. Though he’s a few years older, they share the same birthday, and they practically consider each other twins. Miles is unusual in that he’s interested in being an interpreter of the future, something that’s usually reserved only for women, and his favorite person to practice on is Celeste. Besides constantly paging through the approved guide, called Mapping the Future, he also takes lessons from Julia, a licensed interpreter. While he tries to get Celeste to come with him, she’s ambivalent about the whole thing and is more interested in the workings of the human mind. But when her adult markings reveal a family tragedy, Celeste finds herself in the scary position of keeping secrets from Miles for the first time in her life. But in a society where the predictions on women’s bodies are considered family property, how long will it be before Celeste’s secret is revealed, and will it break apart their family? “We spend too much time either imagining the future, that vast expanse of unborn possibility, or else wandering the past, the land of the dead. And yet I return there, again and again, as if watching it unfold in my memory can affect the outcome. As if the past could ever be as changeable as the future.” The book is from Celeste’s first person POV, but as if she’s narrating it from many years in the future, with lots of “if only I had known then,” sort of asides. I like that particular bit of foreshadowing when it’s used sparingly and precisely, but it was so prevalent it interrupted the flow of the story for me. It was one of many examples of overwrought prose that bogged down the story, which already had pacing problems due to some confusing time skips. “This is the deepest kind of truth, Celeste—what seems impossible, what we keep secret.” We’re shown in boring detail Celeste’s “before”, and then the immediate aftermath of the event that changes her life. And then, all of a sudden, we skip several years in the future, after she’s been at the Mountain School for some time, which, it turns out, is some anti-patriarchy bastion that teaches the girls to think and see themselves as worth more than their prophecies. And that’s the Celeste we pick back up with, one who has given up on her dream of studying psychology and has instead immersed herself in interpretation, intending to go help Miles and Julia with a secret project. And the end of the book is fine, honestly, but what annoyed me is that we skipped through what was most interesting to me – that period where Celeste was deprogrammed from what she’d been raised with and taught to think for herself. What she does with that knowledge is important and empowering, but after endless pages of her day to day life, I was hoping to see more of her coming into herself. “The whole system, the entire structure of our society, was built around protecting men instead of girls.” And that was the disquieting thing about this book to me. Even while being ostensibly focused on Celeste and her journey, so much of the book revolves around Miles. It’s Miles’ insistence on pursuing interpretation that leads them into a sketchy situation (and wow, how quickly Celeste forgave him for that was unbelievable) and it’s his dream that they end up pursuing. Sure, he’s better than any of the other male characters in the book, but that’s a low bar. In a book about patriarchy and misogyny and rape culture, why is the male character given a pass for doing the bare minimum? Overall, I’d give this book about 2.5 stars. It just didn’t dig deeply enough into the themes to be satisfying for me. I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    [Please note, due to the topics in this book and recent events, this review contains discussions of rape culture, sexual assault, and the abduction of women] At times, Body of Stars isn’t an easy read, with many of the moments Celeste experiences feeling very close to what women regularly endure in our own, real world. There’s a lot here surrounding rape culture, with it being pretty much accepted that young women – girls – may get kidnapped and abused once they hit puberty, but it’s not the men’ [Please note, due to the topics in this book and recent events, this review contains discussions of rape culture, sexual assault, and the abduction of women] At times, Body of Stars isn’t an easy read, with many of the moments Celeste experiences feeling very close to what women regularly endure in our own, real world. There’s a lot here surrounding rape culture, with it being pretty much accepted that young women – girls – may get kidnapped and abused once they hit puberty, but it’s not the men’s fault, because everything in a woman’s life is fated. When the book opens, we meet Celeste, a young girl excited and eager to become a woman. Like other girls in her world, she is born with markings across her body, which predict the course her life will take. The one thing that is never foretold is whether a young woman will be abducted during her changeling period. This period is essentially this world’s version of puberty, when girls cross the line into womanhood. For this time, they are irresistible to those around them, taking on an otherworldly beauty. But with this period comes dangers, dangers which many people are not interested in changing. Yes, in many ways this feels like a modern, more Fantasy- and YA-focused version of The Handmaid’s Tale. But that’s not to lessen this book at all. It feels like a book that should be read now, because really, not a lot has actually changed since Margaret Atwood’s novel. Some may think the experiences these girls face are extreme, but there’s a subtlety to it, an underlying tension throughout, and the major difference between this world and Body of Stars is that the girls are most at risk when they are going through puberty, after which point they are safer, they are able to continue with their lives to some degree. Of course, in the real word, as women we face threats and danger our whole lives. I wasn’t going to go into certain aspects of this book so much, but I started writing this review last weekend, and it has sat here, this week, waiting to be continued, because for the last few nights I have barely done anything except play the Switch after work, needing to zone out. But as it turns out, this book has actually become more relevant now. Women in this world are seen as ‘valuable’ and special and something to be protected. They have limited freedoms, especially when younger, and in a lot of ways other societies are held up to them as if to say “look how much worse you could have it.” Celeste’s brother, Marcus, wants to be an interpreter, someone who reads the markings on a woman’s body and reveals their future. But this is a profession only women can enter, and those in charge make every effort to protect this ‘sacred duty’. Some of the ideas and such came through a little clunky. Of course, a book cannot deal with every topic under the sun, but the idea of LGBTQIA issues is sort of brushed under the rug. It is mentioned that those in charge enforce the idea that gender is as fixed as the marks on women’s skin, but in other countries this is handled differently. There is some discussion around other countries dealings with women and the trans community and such, but it does then beg the question of the relationship these more ‘progressive’ countries have with those who treat their citizens poorly. It feels like sometimes issues are raised to simply cover a hole, but done so in a slightly poorly handled way. But, this book is a reflection of the world women live in every day. The kind of world where men see the horrible things we go through, and shift the blame for the violence committed by men. Abducted girls are told they were responsible for their own safety, they knew men couldn’t control themselves when they are changelings, why did they risk it? These girls have to change schools, and for those who can afford it, there is a sort of ‘private’ school they can attend with other girls who have been through similar. But even taking away those elements, this is also a strong coming-of-age tale, as Celeste comes to terms with the changes in her life, as her relationships with her brothers and friends shift, and she becomes more aware of her own body and self. As we yet again have the conversations around women’s safety, rape culture, harassment and assault, this book is actually arriving at a very fitting moment. Yes, women can be strong, but we shouldn’t have to be. But at least in Body of Stars, even if things aren’t fixed by the end, they are moving in the right direction. I just hope the real world follows.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shima

    When I saw the synopsis for this book, I was extremely excited to read it. Maybe, I should have expected the disappointment. Synopses tell you so much about the story and so little about what a book will actually feel like. When I read about markings predicting a women's life, I expected either a faster-paced more fantasy-esque book or a strange atmospheric magical realism type of story. Either way, I thought it would be the sort of book where you lose yourself, and then finish it realising, dam When I saw the synopsis for this book, I was extremely excited to read it. Maybe, I should have expected the disappointment. Synopses tell you so much about the story and so little about what a book will actually feel like. When I read about markings predicting a women's life, I expected either a faster-paced more fantasy-esque book or a strange atmospheric magical realism type of story. Either way, I thought it would be the sort of book where you lose yourself, and then finish it realising, damn, actually that's not that different from our world. Instead, this book feels more than anything like a realist coming-of-age story, or young-ish literary fiction. The idea of women's marking isn't some deep metaphor nor an interesting-but-meaningful magic system, instead, the parallels to real-life situations are so obvious and on the nose, that not much would have changed in terms of the feel of the book, if you took out the markings completely (view spoiler)[ and instead just wrote a contemporary book about a young girl getting sexually assaulted and then creating a support program for other. (hide spoiler)] On the whole, it's one of those books that seems very clearly created around a message. It's not about the characters, it's not about the world or the story. It's all about the idea of women's body and how they are commodified. As much as I like that theme, I think the only time messages in fiction are truly effective is when they come naturally from characters that feel real and you care about. Instead, here, the characters felt crafted to convey the message. Celeste, the main character, feels distant. Instead of ever really getting her thoughts or feelings, the book is narrated as if by her many years later as she reminisces and thinks through the events. In a way that makes her story-self feel empty because everything is being told through an older version of her that we know nothing about. (On a sidenote, this book is not for people who are annoyed by the "I didn't know then that..." style of narration.) In contrast, the few other important characters are either totally unexplored (i.e: her father, Amie, etc.) or totally inconsistent, like Cassandra, or Miles. Cassandra is her "best friend" even though I don't believe there is a genuine moment of friendship between them in the book. Miles, is her brother, who in the beginning almost reads like either a controlling psycho or a sexual predator at the beginning of the book, (view spoiler)[ but is apparently a saint at the end. (hide spoiler)] The only thing that feels genuine about this book is the complicated, strange relationship between Miles and Celeste, which I almost thought was going in the incest direction, but ended up just being a little weird. That being said, the only bits that felt real where some of the dialogues between Miles and Celeste, even when it didn't necessarily make sense in the larger scheme of the book. In that regard, it felt like two books smashed together, one about grief and a complicated sibling relationship, and another about feminism, and the two were never fully integrated together. It was a shame because 1) I think with some work, they could have worked well together and 2) if they weren't going to, it would have been a better book if it had focused on the grief instead of the feminism because that was when it felt its most genuine and interesting, whereas the feminism stuff, while important, felt a little derivative. It wasn't saying anything about rape-culture or systematic misogony that hasn't been told much better before many many times. Nothing about that part felt fresh or exciting. The family relationships, and the idea of anticipating grief, however, could have been something great. I still don't regret reading this book. It's not that long, and it might not be an edge of your seat experience, but it's never boring. It is strange, and you might find yourself skipping three years at the turn of a page, but it tells a story of surviving trauma in a quieter less dramatic way than you'd normally see in fiction, and the idea behind it is interesting, even if I wished it was explored differently (and in more depth) instead of getting stuck on the most obvious metaphoric interpretation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Dyer • bookishly.vintage

    Dutton asked to send me this book in exchange for an honest review, so all thoughts are mine. First things first, I absolutely LOVED this book and had a hard time putting it down! It was just so well written and unique, and I loved the addition of pages from Mapping the Future between chapters. It was very easy to follow along and I absolutely tore through this book. My initial opinion of this book was that women had so much power, yet were limited in so many ways. I mean, they literally have the Dutton asked to send me this book in exchange for an honest review, so all thoughts are mine. First things first, I absolutely LOVED this book and had a hard time putting it down! It was just so well written and unique, and I loved the addition of pages from Mapping the Future between chapters. It was very easy to follow along and I absolutely tore through this book. My initial opinion of this book was that women had so much power, yet were limited in so many ways. I mean, they literally have the future etched into their skin but are subjected to so many rules and regulations, so it does not feel like they are free at all. And if they were ever abducted, they are considered "ruined" women and can never have a respectable job (or even education) again. I felt that this book mirrored our own society in a lot of ways, because men get away with so much more and are generally given more freedoms than the average woman. Women these days may feel like they have a lot of freedom, but when it comes down to it the men always come out on top. And it is truly disgusting. In the book, the women are blamed for "allowing" the abductions to take place and are punished for trying to remember what happened (by taking a drug that shares hidden memories) and.....that sounds about right for society today too.... women in society today are still being told they are "at fault" for allowing r*pe and s*xual assault to happen to them. It really is despicable. I actually cringed at the part where fathers do the markings inspection during the changeling period. I understand being a kid and having your parents look at you, but once hitting puberty there is absolutely no reason a father should be able to look at your naked body. It made me uncomfortable, and it was just one of those small details that showed womens bodies were not truly their own. I mean, the book as a whole had a very eerie feeling to it, it really did give me dystopian vibes despite the book having more than just bad parts in it. But like I said, this book is more than a sum of its bad parts, even as a dystopian novel. And I am saying they're bad as in "not right," not as in I hated the book. I loved this, and have no complaints! For the better parts of the book, women have their futures written on their bodies! Professions, major illnesses, marriage, kids, just about anything. There is a chart at the start of the book detailing where these marking show up on a body and what they mean, and it is just so fascinating to me. There was a whole interpretation district in the book where women could go to get truthful or mystical readings, and even mentioned how to spot the "fakes" from true interpreters. Despite being a ruined woman, there are still options out there (for those that have money of course). Women can also become humanitarians and help out the disadvantaged around the world, and get a lot of money for it! Only women can be interpreters because they carry the marks on their bodies, but sometimes the markings are vague enough they can choose their own professions. This book also showed how much women can come together, even in secret, to help make the world a better place. Also, each woman goes through a changeling period that feels like pure magic. They have a sort of glow to them and a higher lucidity of the world, and get to live like this for a few weeks, seeing everything through heightened senses. As scary as it is to be a changeling, there is also something just magical about it too. All in all, I want to keep this book with me forever. I was sickened and cringing at some parts in it, but through it all Celeste was inspiring and there was just to much hope in this. I thought there would be more action, but that is because I read a lot of fantasy (whoops). This is more like magical realism than fantasy, with the magic being the changeling period and markings shifting on the body. I loved this book so much, and it might be one of my year end favorites.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ariana

    Body of Stars is set in a world like ours in seemingly every way except for the fact that every woman is born with markings (they look like freckles and moles) on her skin that predict future events of her life, and once she is around 16 she becomes a changeling, meaning that her “baby marks” change to reflect adult predictions. During this changeling period girls’ senses are hyperactive, and they take on a glow that makes them irresistible to men, which makes them vulnerable to kidnapping. Kidn Body of Stars is set in a world like ours in seemingly every way except for the fact that every woman is born with markings (they look like freckles and moles) on her skin that predict future events of her life, and once she is around 16 she becomes a changeling, meaning that her “baby marks” change to reflect adult predictions. During this changeling period girls’ senses are hyperactive, and they take on a glow that makes them irresistible to men, which makes them vulnerable to kidnapping. Kidnapped girls will be kept by their abuser until their changeling period is over, most likely being drugged and assaulted, and having their markings copied out to be sold, before being left in the streets to be found by authorities or family. After this their futures are essentially over, as girls who are taken are not allowed to pursue higher education, and consequently find it hard to start a career. By the description I have just given, I would say that this book is not for the fainthearted, and I have also seen it compared many times to The Handmaid’s Tale, as it is in the vein of oppressed women fighting to get their freedom. I found, though, that despite the harsh topics and the traumatic events that befall Celeste and other characters, that Body of Stars didn’t delight in the gruesomeness of oppression and assault; the facts were laid out clearly, and in a serious manner, but the focus of the book was very much the criticism of society and the way things can be improved. There are no graphic scenes. The hopelessness of the situation is highlighted, and then hope is slowly brought forth to both characters and readers as the story unfolds. It was a joy to read. I also really enjoyed the world building – it was subtle because, as I said, the story is set in a world like ours in terms of history and technology, but there are differences in the politics and social structures that result from the fact that women are marked with the future. For example, before each chapter is an extract of the government mandated book Mapping the Future, in which girls are taught how to read their markings, how to deal with the changeling period, how to deal with the aftermath of being taken, and other information. There are also mentions of other countries and the ways in which women’s rights differ from place to place – in some places, for example, women who are marked as homemakers will be denied education, with the argument that they will not need it. Celeste also tells us that in the past women’s positions were affected much more by the markings on their skin, and that still today to work or study they must disclose their government file which holds all their markings. I will not go into details of the plot, because as ever the joy is in the reading, but I will say that the overarching narrative, while it does hold some tension and mystery, is quite straightforward and at times predictable, and I don’t mean this in a negative way at all. The fact that all the events follow a fairly logical sequence means that the story can focus much more on what it’s trying to say in terms of its commentary on society, and its emboldening of women and the incredible potential that they hold for changing the world around them with their love and care. Overall, such an exquisitely written novel, in which fiction and reality blur and are mixed together with a touch of myth. I highly recommend it to anyone – I picked it up thinking it was more grounded in fantasy that it was, but loved it regardless, and any fan of literary fiction will find that this will easily slot into the classics of the genre.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

    “Body of Stars” by Laura Maylene Walter is an emotional young adult novel set in a universe where the freckles and moles on a woman’s body create constellations that can predict the future, a gift that is abused and cost many their freedom. Walter creates a fascinating parallel to the inequalities, injustices, and fear women face in fictional and non-fictional universes while reflecting on the resilience of both genders to make a change and create a place where women are protected, safe, and equ “Body of Stars” by Laura Maylene Walter is an emotional young adult novel set in a universe where the freckles and moles on a woman’s body create constellations that can predict the future, a gift that is abused and cost many their freedom. Walter creates a fascinating parallel to the inequalities, injustices, and fear women face in fictional and non-fictional universes while reflecting on the resilience of both genders to make a change and create a place where women are protected, safe, and equal. Though this is a tough, heartbreaking story it is also one of power and healing. There is a weariness in cracking open stories like this one where the story hits too close to home to the dysfunctionalities of one’s own society. A reminder of all the ways in which not enough is ever being done. I’m not a person who is easily triggered, but there were moments where I was horrified and affected so emotionally, I needed to put the book down for a while before being able to pick it up again. I was worried the book would dramatize or romanticize the real fear women face as it often does on screen and in other novels, but this hit too close to home for it to be anything other than an attempt to be as authentic and genuine as possible. “Who in this crowd would take advantage of a darkened sidewalk, the broken streetlamp, the girl out alone after dark? … In the right circumstances, maybe anyone could strike.” Celeste Morton is maybe one of the few who dreads the change into womanhood. Of course she wants to know what her future holds for her, but there’s the worry that fate has different plans than what she’s set out for herself. Not to mention the changeling period is the most dreaded time for all women, the time when their beauty is so irresistible it puts them at risk of abduction. When Celeste enters the changeling period, she understands the full weight of what it means to be a woman whose body can foretell the future and the burdens she, and all women must carry. In an effort to work against a society that doesn’t keep women safe and to protect those she loves, Celeste tries to the impossible and rewrite her own fate to see a better and brighter future. Take the trigger warnings seriously. This book delves into heavy territory that makes it very difficult to read. Walter does not shy away from speaking up about the injustices done to women, the ways in which society and authority figures fail women who need help, and the misogynistic exploitation of women and their bodies. One aspect of the book I felt needed further investigating had to do with the near-ruination of a woman’s future when/if they return from an abduction. I thought maybe it was meant to be taken metaphorically in the sense that perhaps women themselves feel society sees them as damaged, broken, and unable to function normally after the trauma of being abducted. Maybe they feel the future is ruined for them and they have no place within it. If meant to be taken literally, then I found the story didn’t provide enough reasoning for women to be rejected from further schooling or career options due to abduction. Otherwise, I felt this was a brilliant book with a unique concept that shines a light on the abuse and fears women live with. It was beautifully written in prose that was incredibly detailed and vivid which only added to create an emotional novel full of heartbreak, healing, and hope. Thank you to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Dutton for providing me with an e-arc of this novel to write an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emma Shaw

    "No future, dear reader, can break a woman on its own."  What would it be like to know your future? To have the things that will happen to you and those you love mapped out on your body and be powerless to change it?  Body of Stars is a dazzling and luminous debut that is unlike anything I’ve read before. It is one of those books you know you’re going to love from the start; that seeps right into your soul and lingers long after you’ve finished reading. Exquisitely written with beautiful and almos "No future, dear reader, can break a woman on its own."  What would it be like to know your future? To have the things that will happen to you and those you love mapped out on your body and be powerless to change it?  Body of Stars is a dazzling and luminous debut that is unlike anything I’ve read before. It is one of those books you know you’re going to love from the start; that seeps right into your soul and lingers long after you’ve finished reading. Exquisitely written with beautiful and almost melodic prose, the author cast a hypnotic spell with the captivating opening lines that lasts until the final pages. I savoured every word, eager to bathe in its splendour for as long as possible. A multifaceted story about fate, choice, family, secrets, trauma and female agency, the author writes with truth and sensitivity as she examines timely, important issues such as male violence, rape culture, victim blaming, patriarchy and the toxicity they can breed. She also asks how women can empower themselves and come together to make a change, and looks at the positive and negative consequences of knowing your future.  "All we knew was that our lives were speckled in advance on our skin, as it had been for our mothers, as it was for our sisters, while our brothers and fathers were left in the dark." The girls in this world are born marked, but men aren’t. And men are jealous, eager to know their own fates. But despite being the ones with the future on their skin, the women aren’t the ones with the agency. Their bodies aren’t their own and from birth they are read and their markings recorded by government inspectors, they have to sign waivers permitting potential universities or employers access to these records, and upon becoming a changeling they must submit to a humiliating inspection by both their mother and father. And, as changelings, the females are so potent that everyone is drawn to them; the men in particular. Some of whom will do anything to possess them. But the men are seen as powerless against their changeling allure and it is the women who are held responsible for staying safe and not getting abducted. And if they are taken and ruined, the blame is placed solely at their feet. But this isn’t an anti-men book. It is a wider story about the problems of strict gender identities and roles, and we see Celeste’s brother Miles and her father also fall foul of their society's strict rules and roles for men.  One of my favourite aspects of this book is that the author included excerpts and illustrations from Mapping the Future, the book used in her fictional world to interpret markings and predict their fates. The intricate detail was phenomenal and added to the sense of realism. There were definitely times I forgot this was all from the author’s wonderful imagination and I wasn’t reading about life in another country.  It is rare to read a book where you really have no idea what will happen next, and this was one of those books. I found myself reading in breathless anticipation, trying to piece together the clues she’d dropped like breadcrumbs about Celeste and Miles’ fate.  Mesmerising, soulful, unique and memorable, Body of Stars is an absolute tour de force. An easy five stars from me, I have no doubt this will be among my favourite books of the year. It is a book that resonates strongly and can’t recommend it highly enough. I am in awe that it is a debut novel and can’t wait to see what Ms. Walters writes next after such a phenomenal start. 

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amy (Bossy Bookworm)

    For my full review of this book on The Bossy Bookworm, or to receive all of my Bossy reviews and Greedy Reading Lists as soon as they're posted, please see Body of Stars. In the world of Laura Maylene Walter's just-published young adult novel Body of Stars, the patterns of freckles, moles, and birthmarks on women’s bodies serve to predict their future—their career, the number of children they'll have, important aspects of their family members' lives--everything significant that lies ahead. I h For my full review of this book on The Bossy Bookworm, or to receive all of my Bossy reviews and Greedy Reading Lists as soon as they're posted, please see Body of Stars. In the world of Laura Maylene Walter's just-published young adult novel Body of Stars, the patterns of freckles, moles, and birthmarks on women’s bodies serve to predict their future—their career, the number of children they'll have, important aspects of their family members' lives--everything significant that lies ahead. I had some trouble getting on board with Walter's premise of moles and freckles and birthmarks holding the key to unlocking the future. The characters' peering at and studying each other’s body patterns felt extremely invasive and intrusive, especially when the boys and men felt entitled to examine the young women. (The father-daughter examination tradition at puberty--! And Miles's pushing into his sister's room--which is disturbing enough: privacy, please!--and expecting disrobing and peering to be allowed--! No no no.) The girls seemed mildly disturbed but not as horrified as I was as a reader. I felt on the edge of jumping out of my skin for most of the book. It seemed especially off-putting somehow that Miles (who as a male had no markings) was so very interested in the markings and their meanings. There are a lot of potential triggers here, and Walter explores a society in which victim shaming is common and justice isn't meted out to those in the wrong. It's enraging. The most intriguing aspects of the story for me were related to characters' dreams of a world in which women had no markings, but I wished that the book more fully explored the cycle of prediction and realization that lies at the heart of its premise. Do predicted events bear out specific outcomes just by their existence? How much of the fated events are set in stone in Walter's imagined world? If no markings existed, would futures not be fated? Or would they be destined to occur, but remain unknown until they took place? And isn't centering so many lives around interpreting these marks perpetuating their power--and the women’s being at men's mercy, being showcased and examined and on display and exploited? The education for (some of) the girls following their abductions was wonderfully imagined. I would've liked to spend more time at the school as they learned about themselves and the world around them. But I kept asking myself, what is any of it for if characters cannot change any aspect of their life path? Body of Stars reminded me in some ways of The Power because of the young women's influence over society, but women ultimately seemed more empowered in that book. I received a prepublication edition of this book through Penguin Group Dutton and NetGalley.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

    I can't help getting angry when I read the negative reviews. I'll address those first and foremost. If you don't like magical realism or fantasy or alternate history, don't read the book. It's simple. The premise is written in the blurb, it's right there, you can't say you've been lied to. You should know what to expect going in. Your review is biased if it's a genre you already loathe but you read it anyway just to confirm you loathe it. Why? To those who dislike 'Body of Stars' because it's de I can't help getting angry when I read the negative reviews. I'll address those first and foremost. If you don't like magical realism or fantasy or alternate history, don't read the book. It's simple. The premise is written in the blurb, it's right there, you can't say you've been lied to. You should know what to expect going in. Your review is biased if it's a genre you already loathe but you read it anyway just to confirm you loathe it. Why? To those who dislike 'Body of Stars' because it's depressing and it's yet another iteration of female misery -- that's the point of it, isn't it? Those who do not like this book because it forces them to confront the way the world is... again, it's not too hard to surmise that's what the book is going to do upon entering it. And you can't just ignore reality. I'd suppose I would call 'Body of Stars' a serious, mirthless caricature of modernity. It's not dystopian, not in my opinion. It's an alternate history, a world where the issues women face today are put under a microsope. Literally. It's a story about how women do not belong to themselves. They belong to everyone else, to society, and more prominently to men. That they aren't even safe from their fathers and their brothers. They are molded by their education and should they be abused, the fault is almost always entirely theirs -- or so society would have them believe. I have given 'Body of Stars' four stars only because I felt my suspension of disbelief stretched in certain parts -- I struggled to comprehend a society that just accepted fate. I'd have liked to read more about women trying to subvert or fight their fate because despite knowing some things are inevitable, I still think a human being would fight and claw and kick to avoid harrowing grief and loss, unless these markings also take away the instinct to survive. I did find the book well written, however, and it inspired so much anger that I just wanted to continue, craved resolution and a positive outcome. There's no beating around the bush. A woman will know exactly how the text reflects her own experiences and it ought to be clear enough for man to understand, too. Anyone decrying this book because it's too depressing - please stop. This kind of book is a requirement. There need to be more of this kind of book, more that have an underlying message of hope. Because though 'Body of Stars' confronts grief and sadness and violence toward women, it isn't depressing. It fights. There's hope, which is what women in the world need today. To keep fighting, and to have hope that the outcome, increment by increment, will eventually be a good one. OUR fates are not set. WE have freedom, and we should do everything in our power to change the course of history.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Allison M

    3.5 stars for this dystopian feminist novel. Celeste lives in a world much like ours in many ways. The difference is that women’s bodies are marked with their fates: all women, and only women, have patterns of freckles and moles on their bodies that mean something, showing whether they will marry, have children, suffer disease and so on. The meaning of the patterns may require skill in interpretation but they do mark out the future accurately, some in broad terms and some in devastatingly specifi 3.5 stars for this dystopian feminist novel. Celeste lives in a world much like ours in many ways. The difference is that women’s bodies are marked with their fates: all women, and only women, have patterns of freckles and moles on their bodies that mean something, showing whether they will marry, have children, suffer disease and so on. The meaning of the patterns may require skill in interpretation but they do mark out the future accurately, some in broad terms and some in devastatingly specific fore-tellings. Added to this, the markings on girls change and become fixed, literally overnight, as they transition towards adulthood. For several weeks after their markings have fixed the girls/women are termed changelings: they are hyperaware, hypercharged, and magnetically alluring to everyone around them. The changeling period is a dangerous one, as sometimes changelings are abducted by men – in the novel, this appears to happen only to changelings and follows the same course of being held captive, drugged and raped for the duration of their changeling period before being released. The fact that they were taken is seen as a mark of shame for these girls and while the men go unpunished the girls face a future of restricted social, educational and career opportunities. This summary gives an idea of the themes of the novel. There is interesting exploration of free will versus fate; rape culture; the varying extent to which different societies and governments ‘allow’ female autonomy; of how male violence underpins and enables male-centred society; of what it means to be a woman. Laura Maylene Walter deserves praise for writing a strong debut tackling major issues, but I did struggle with other aspects of the novel. Perhaps I missed something with the Mountain School origin myth but for me this fell slightly flat. I was not gripped by the characters – although I would have been interested to find out more about Marie’s and Celeste’s mothers. I can’t decide what was the reason for including Miles: did he represent some kind of duality in Celeste’s character, as indicated by their shared birthday two years apart?; was he there to point out in reverse the folly of barring talent on the basis of sex (he was an innovative and talented interpreter of mole-patterns, despite this being seen as ‘a woman’s job’?); or was he there as Entitled Male: demanding work in one of the few careers from which his maleness disbarred him; using his strength as well as trickery to try to forcibly view Celeste’s markings? Despite my criticisms, I recommend Body of Stars as a clear-sighted novel full of promise. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book in return for an honest review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Vivienne

    My thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Body of Stars’ by Laura Maylene Walter in exchange for an honest review. This was an extraordinary debut. As well as being well written, its themes of female agency and objectification are extremely relevant subjects. The dystopian society outlined within its pages reflects troubling aspects of modern society. In the world of the novel every female from birth holds a map of her future on her skin, as each mole and freckle presents a clu My thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Body of Stars’ by Laura Maylene Walter in exchange for an honest review. This was an extraordinary debut. As well as being well written, its themes of female agency and objectification are extremely relevant subjects. The dystopian society outlined within its pages reflects troubling aspects of modern society. In the world of the novel every female from birth holds a map of her future on her skin, as each mole and freckle presents a clue to unlocking what will come to pass. Around the time of their sixteenth birthday, girls enter a brief period of transition known as the changeling phase. During this time their final marks will appear and their future decided. However, the aura of the changelings are irresistible to men. As a result abduction is rife as certain men seek to possess these young women and their futures for themselves. Thus, they are advised to remain ever vigilant, dress modestly, and the rest. Those who return after being abducted are considered ruined and their future educational and career paths curtailed through no fault of their own. In addition, their marks are usually recorded during their abduction and become commodities shared among enthusiasts. Celeste Morton is the novel’s narrator. She shares a close bond with her older brother, Miles, who despite his gender is a gifted interpreter of the marks. When Celeste enters her own changeling phase, she not only learns a devastating secret but is also tempted to flout those pesky safety guidelines. No further details in order to avoid spoilers, but I will say that while ‘Body of Stars’ was difficult to read in places, it was not graphic. However, the level of control exerted upon women, not only by those who sought to abduct the changelings, but in general by this society was disturbing. Interspersed between chapters were extracts from ‘Mapping the Future: An Interpretive Guide to Women and Girls’. These entries were chillingly clinical. I did wonder a bit about the predestination aspect of the markings, though at one point Julia, Miles’ mentor, says to Celeste: “The future will come for you as it intends,” she said. “That is undeniable. With time, however, you’ll see that your actions might make a difference. Not a dramatic difference, but even the slightest change might be meaningful. We do have free will, after all.” Overall, I felt that Laura Maylene Walter has written a thought-provoking work of literary dystopian fiction that was also infused with hope for change as well as celebrated the bonds of family, especially between siblings. She’s one to watch. I was certainly caught up in the author’s vision and ended up reading ‘Body of Stars’ in a single sitting.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Harley

    Celeste is a map. Her body is her fate, each freckle and mole pointing to the life she will lead – her career, her love, her family. In a world where women are coveted for the secrets their bodies hold, where a girl becoming an adult puts her at risk of harm, of abduction, of losing what it is to be herself and where a sister’s life can be entwined with a brothers, in ways only now becoming clear to her. This is a story of secrets, of fate and of finding agency in a world determined to take it a Celeste is a map. Her body is her fate, each freckle and mole pointing to the life she will lead – her career, her love, her family. In a world where women are coveted for the secrets their bodies hold, where a girl becoming an adult puts her at risk of harm, of abduction, of losing what it is to be herself and where a sister’s life can be entwined with a brothers, in ways only now becoming clear to her. This is a story of secrets, of fate and of finding agency in a world determined to take it away. I finished reading this today, 14 March 2021. Women across the UK are currently speaking up against the normalisation of violence and harassment against women and as vigils are held, I can’t help but feel the messages in this novel are important. Because this is a novel about violence against women and about recovering and rebuilding in a world that covets women’s bodies and is unafraid to take their agency. It is relevant, not only as an allegory for the world we live in today, but for the future too. I feel a tightening in my chest when I consider that the events which unfold in this novel are happening now, in the real world. Poignant as it is, I really did want more from this novel. I wanted to understand the characters more, I wanted to see their growth and development. The pace at times was painfully slow, which was a shame because so much happened in the last 50 pages that I wanted to spend more time on, wanted to explore further. The message of hope that rings through the ending was, for me, dampened by the hurtle towards it in the final chapters. For that reason, too, it didn’t feel entirely new as a concept. There were resonances with The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments here and while the concept of a woman’s fate being mapped on her body is undoubtedly new, the allegorical nature of the novel carried similar tropes to books I’d read before. I also felt at times that the allegory was pressed slightly too obviously. We were constantly reminded of the terms under which women’s bodies are policed, viewed, put at risk. I found some of the regular reminders peppered throughout the novel laboured it in a way that brought it to my attention and made me lose the ‘realness’ of the novel. Writing that draws attention to itself is something I really struggle with. But this is a solidly a three star novel. Reading it right now, I’m struck by the relevance, the necessity and the urgency of its message. I would recommend, for readers of books like The Handmaid’s Tale.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Samantha // fictionfigurine

    Body of Stars takes place in a dystopian-type world where markings (essentially freckles and their patterns) predict the futures of girls. The book includes excerpts from Mapping the Future, a handbook used to help those with the study of markings. Understanding and deciphering your markings is described as a mandatory act, in which girls going through the “change” will awake to their new bodies and permanent pattern of their predicted future. This sensitive time is dangerous for the girl or “ch Body of Stars takes place in a dystopian-type world where markings (essentially freckles and their patterns) predict the futures of girls. The book includes excerpts from Mapping the Future, a handbook used to help those with the study of markings. Understanding and deciphering your markings is described as a mandatory act, in which girls going through the “change” will awake to their new bodies and permanent pattern of their predicted future. This sensitive time is dangerous for the girl or “changeling” because her body is glowing, attractive, and irresistible to men. To venture out while in their “changeling-state” puts the girls at risk to be kidnapped, violated, or harmed. The government keeps records on every girl’s marking predictions, and for those unlucky enough to be kidnapped, or raped, their reputations and futures are ruined forever. I found the entire premise to be quite creative. It reminded me of palm-reading or fortune-telling as if it was a part of growing up. The plot surrounds the main character, Celeste, and her experience as she becomes a changeling. She struggles with her new markings and what a particular pattern predicts for her and her older brother, Miles (who she is very close to.) Celeste’s life is consumed by this fear of discovery, causing her to be secretive and distant, only complicating her ability to make wise decisions in order to protect herself. Unfortunate events occur, and there is a slight shift in the writing and where the story moves toward. One of the things I began to notice was an undertone of misogyny throughout the book. Women are less-than and are treated as such. For those who are “careless” enough to leave home during their change, they are then held responsible for any danger that comes to them. I found myself flipping through the chapters quickly, with a sense of suspense of what may happen next. A lot occurs in the final pages, but without ruining the ending, I appreciated how Celeste ultimately doesn’t allow her markings to control her future and how she and her brother use their abilities to help others. With such an original portrayal of objectification and misogyny, I was fascinated by the many metaphors of rape-culture that shouted from the pages. This was a solid 4-star rating for me. My only complaint was a desire for my action, more rebellion, however there is a lot to be taken-in here and I applaud the author for her imaginativeness and skill. TW: rape, sexual assault, molestation Thank you to #netgalley and @duttonbooks for the advanced e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)

    You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight *CW: Sexual assault/rape Body of Stars was quite a unique and thought-provoking take on a dystopian world in which women are treated terribly. Much like the greatest of dystopian worlds, it takes the characters a hot second to see that their world is, in fact, trash. Because when you are raised hearing the same vitriol preached as gospel, what else could you possibly believe? And there is You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight *CW: Sexual assault/rape Body of Stars was quite a unique and thought-provoking take on a dystopian world in which women are treated terribly. Much like the greatest of dystopian worlds, it takes the characters a hot second to see that their world is, in fact, trash. Because when you are raised hearing the same vitriol preached as gospel, what else could you possibly believe? And there is the rub: even in our society, we often don't notice oppression happening right before our eyes.  In this particular story, Celeste, like every female, has a series of markings on her body that people believe predicts the future. And there's a whole gross ceremony surrounding it, and people basically take these predictions as set in stone. Which is, of course, a super convenient way to trap women, but that's a whole other discussion. Anyway, when Celeste and her friends start hitting puberty (which happens oddly late, and was never really explained), they become, for a short period of time, extra... appealing. And as always, it is the burden of the women to keep themselves covered, to stay away from men, to not go out alone. It's absurd to read about, but then... think about the messages women in the real world get every day. Yeah, same. And then, if the young woman does get assaulted (or even worse and quite frequent, kidnapped, drugged, and raped), she's considered "tainted". Can't go to college, can't get a decent paying job... all because some monster hurt her.  The crux of the story lies in whether Celeste can come to terms with this whole societal structure being total bullshit. That it is the fault of the attacker, never the person attacked. She'll encounter people all across the spectrum, from those who staunchly defend the mistreatment of women, to those who vehemently oppose it and spend their life's work trying to defeat it.  Bottom Line: It's so very thought provoking, and especially introspective. In such a unique world with some very familiar vile ways of thinking, would we rise against the oppression, or side with barbaric "tradition"? 

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kate Jordhamo

    4.5 stars and I will preface with a TW for sexual assault, rape, abduction -- there are parts of this novel that could be retraumatizing for anyone who has experienced this. What if your freckles could tell you your future? For Celeste Morton and the rest of the women in this novel, they can. Celeste has eagerly awaited her passage to adulthood. Like every girl, she was born with a set of childhood markings--the freckles, moles, and birthmarks on her body that foretell her future and that of those 4.5 stars and I will preface with a TW for sexual assault, rape, abduction -- there are parts of this novel that could be retraumatizing for anyone who has experienced this. What if your freckles could tell you your future? For Celeste Morton and the rest of the women in this novel, they can. Celeste has eagerly awaited her passage to adulthood. Like every girl, she was born with a set of childhood markings--the freckles, moles, and birthmarks on her body that foretell her future and that of those around her--and with puberty will come a new set of predictions that will solidify her fate. The possibilities are tantalizing enough to outweigh the worry that the future she dreams of won't be the one she's fated to have and the fear of her "changeling period" the time when women are nearly irresistible to men and the risk of abduction is rife. If a girl is abducted during this period, she is returned with her reputation destroyed and future prospects ruined -- no matter what has been foretold in her markings. This novel is a stunning allegory and exploration of rape culture, bodily autonomy and agency, and gender identity and expression. In beautiful and lyrical prose, this novel offers a nuanced takedown of the misogyny that lives in the undercurrent of our culture. While this is not a world grounded in reality, it feels like it could be, which is equal parts thrilling and terrifying. I especially enjoyed that the novel did not just focus on gender discrimination against women, but explored how this impacts men, transgender folks, and non-binary folks as well. Equally strong is the theme of identity and choice. With their futures already fated, the women in the novel often were faced with the paradox of forging their own path when it has already been laid out. Celeste's interactions with her mother, the women of the mountain school, her childhood friends, and Julia were especially strong. Without spoiling any plot points: this is a gripping, though-provoking, and incredibly well written story. I was engrossed from start to finish, and wanted to order a physical copy as soon as I was done reading. Thank you to the publisher for the provided copy of this novel!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Svea

    "Body of Stars" had an interesting premise that immediately drew me in. The idea of girls with marks on their bodies that predict their future is one I haven't read about before, so I was really intrigued. It is beautifully written, too, and Walter definitely knows how to build her own world, fill it with details and tidbits to make it come to life. In the end, though, this book turned out to just not be for me. It talks about serious topics, which I usually enjoy in dystopian fiction, but it was "Body of Stars" had an interesting premise that immediately drew me in. The idea of girls with marks on their bodies that predict their future is one I haven't read about before, so I was really intrigued. It is beautifully written, too, and Walter definitely knows how to build her own world, fill it with details and tidbits to make it come to life. In the end, though, this book turned out to just not be for me. It talks about serious topics, which I usually enjoy in dystopian fiction, but it was all a little bit too on the nose for me. Some more subtlety would have helped in creating a more eerie, dark atmosphere that I think would have benefitted the story. The protagonist, Celeste, never really managed to get me interested, and neither did her brother Miles. The side characters weren't really fleshed out either, although there is a lot of potential here (I especially liked Marie's mother), so I didn't really care about either of them at any point. Which, considering the fate of Miles is one big plot point of the story, means that I was never emotionally involved at all. The pacing is very slow and nothing really seems to happen for a long time - most of the book reads more like an introduction to this world. There are constant allusions to Bad Things happening in the future, with Celeste mentioning that "this was the last time I'd ever see this person" or "at this time I didn't know how important this moment would be for my future self" (no direct quotes, of course) which should have built up suspense but never actually delivered., There are some time skips, too, that kind of gloss over important, maybe even crucial character development that I would actually have been interested to read - especially Celeste's time at the Mountain school, I wish the book dived more into her process of unlearning all these societal norms and rules instead of basically just saying "and during that time, she learned a lot". The concept is a really interesting one and the writing is beautiful, but the story never really seems to flesh out its plot and characters and thus ended up being a rather shallow read. Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and Netgalley for this arc!

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