So I hate to be the guy who quotes from someone else’s review in the middle of my own, especially when that someone is Publisher’s Weekly (not that I have anything against them), but this one is just too perfect, too apt, to resist:
“Few authors explore the theme of what defines a family with more compassion and sensitivity than Paterson.”
And that’s exactly it. That’s exactly what’s so wonderful about The Same Stuff as Stars. Katherine Paterson just gets it.
When we first meet Angel Morgan—our 12-year-old protagonist—nothing is perfect, or great, or even okay about her family. Her father is in jail and her mother is an alcoholic who has abandoned Angel and her little brother at a run down farmhouse with their decrepit great-grandmother. The day her mother drives away, Angel is forced even more completely into an already familiar role: matriarch and provider for herself and her brother. Her only escape is nightly lessons in the stars and planets from a mysterious stranger who brings food for the family and a telescope for stargazing.
This isn’t anywhere near as creepy as it sounds, I promise. It’s not creepy at all, in fact. But it is hard to explain without giving too much away. Suffice to say that Mystery Starman’s intentions are entirely pure, and that, with his help and the help of the stars, Angel finds what she’s looking for. It’s certainly not perfect. In fact, it’s pretty sad. But it’s also strong, and hopeful, and real.