So, it’s kind of like this:
You go see a short film called, “The Car Crash.” The synopsis says, “In this film, a car will crash, and as a result, the driver will never walk again.” With some morbid curiosity, you go in. The film begins with the driver leaving their home. They get in the car and begin driving. And all you can think is, “the driver will never walk again.” Maybe the driver begins to sing along to the car radio, happily tapping their fingers against the steering wheel. All you can think is, “the driver will never walk again.” You don’t know how. Maybe the driver is too busy singing, so they drive through a red light and get t-boned by a truck. Maybe, completely faultless, another car swerves into them and causes the car to wreck. You don’t know. You keep watching, though. You can’t look away. Because you need answers, and all you know for sure is that the car will crash, and the driver will never walk again, and you won’t find out how or why unless you keep going. And there’s another question rolling around in the back of your mind: will the driver be able to recover?
That’s how reading See All the Stars by Kit Frick felt.
Here’s the description, just so you can see what I mean:
It’s hard to find the truth beneath the lies you tell yourself.
THEN: They were four—Bex, Jenni, Ellory, Ret. (Venus. Earth. Moon. Sun.) Electric, headstrong young women; Ellory’s whole solar system.
NOW: Ellory is alone, her once inseparable group of friends torn apart by secrets, deception, and a shocking incident that changed their lives forever.
THEN: Lazy summer days. A party. A beautiful boy. Ellory met Matthias and fell into the beginning of a spectacular, bright love.
NOW: Ellory returns to Pine Brook to navigate senior year after a two-month suspension and summer away—no boyfriend, no friends. No going back. Tormented by some and sought out by others, troubled by a mysterious note-writer who won’t let Ellory forget, and consumed by guilt over her not entirely innocent role in everything and everyone she’s lost, Ellory finds that even in the present, the past is everywhere.
The path forward isn’t a straight line. And moving on will mean sorting the truth from the lies—the lies Ellory has been telling herself.
The novel switches between the Then and the Now, a Then when Ellory had it all and a Now where it’s been taken away. Somewhere in the middle: the car crash, the Thing that happened to totally overturn Ellory’s world. Like for the characters, past and present events seem to blur—you don’t know you’re back in the present until one of the characters says or does something, and you’re forced to stop and go back.
I seriously could not put this book down. I found myself gravitating back to it in my spare time, needing to know what happens next. Desperate to unravel the mystery. And as I started to pull at the knots, to connect the dots, I became physically nauseous thinking about what most likely happened. No exaggeration, there were points my stomach churned. I wanted to grab Ellory and scream at her. I wanted the book to go a different way. Her pain became mine.
Ellory is brutally honest—her inner thoughts, both good and bad, are on display, ready for the reader to make the final judgement. But her account of the story is layered. She has a secret she’s keeping from you, and page-by-page, layer-by-layer, the secret begins to be revealed.
As far as the writing, Frick has a keen ear for real dialogue. Dialogue that’s messy, halted, where the characters don’t always say exactly the right thing. She easily pulled me into her story, and I could hear each character’s distinct voice in my head. That being said, the characters themselves were a little flat, falling easily into tropes. You have the moody, mysterious, troubled-past-with-a-soft-side love interest; the best-friend-turned-enemy-classic-Regina-George; the main character is a blend between the popular insider and the artistic outcast. But, at least for me, I found the trope-y-ness of the characters bothered me less the more I read.
The next Great American Novel* it is not, but if you’re looking for a page turner that will suck you in from page one and never let go, this is the book for you. It was a great foil for all the heavy literature I’m reading for school, and it felt nice to let the book sweep me up and carry me along. I had this book hovering around three, three and a half stars, but the ending kicked it up a star because holy shit. It’s crazy, lemme tell you. Or, I guess, find out for yourself?
See All the Stars will be available in hardcover and eBook August 14, 2018.
* In my opinion, it doesn’t exist because taste is subjective.