United By Pop received a free copy of Stargazing for Beginners in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are our own.
Title: Stargazing for Beginners
Author: Jenny McLachlan
Overall rating: 4/5
Great for: Fans of Sara Barnard, Jandy Nelson, and Holly Bourne
Themes: Contemporary, young adult, coming-of-age, romance, family dynamics, space
Review: When confronted with a cover of such opulent beauty, I knew I had to read this. But when I also discovered that the story centred around a protagonist as space-obsessed as I am, I just knew I was going to fall in love with this book.
And fall in love I did.
This is the story of Megara. Despite her young age, she has an in-depth knowledge of the intricate laws governing the universe. But when it comes to understanding her family, though? Not so much. Meg’s life is ruled by order, whereas her family thrive on spontaneity. Her free-spirited mum has noble ideas about saving the world but no clue of the fractures forming in her own home. Her impulsive grandfather spends his life performing madcap experiments, yet has no clue on how to run a household. And baby sister, Elsa, doesn’t seem to know how to do anything much other than scream for an intolerable length of time.
When her mother conveniently allows herself to forget about her family constraints and leaves one day, with a vague date of return, Meg finds she is the only one that can keep her hair-brained family together. But with a baby sister and grandfather now relying on her for their survival, as well as school studies and a coming space competition to keep on top of, Meg’s carefully ordered life quickly crumbles.
Despite initially requiring some suspended belief, I was quickly drawn into the emotions of this tale and my feelings soon mirrored Meg’s own. I was angered at her mother’s leaving, I was saddened by the disorder that ensued, I was anxious with each new task that was heaped onto her already overflowing plate. But most of all I was soothed by Meg’s only constant that remained: her love for space.
This love is something that really shone throughout the novel and it became difficult to differentiate Meg’s affinity from my own. As emotions threatened to overwhelm both the protagonist and the plot, it was saved by the calm that comes with the study of something only understandable through its dispassionate laws. Life’s disorder and physics order worked in tandem to bring this plot together and to save Meg from herself.
This was such a gorgeously penned and emotive novel, dealing with the themes of love, loss, and finding one’s self. Ultimate space nerd, Megan, has so much to teach the reader about identity and, of course, the solar system, despite her young age.
Aside from our shared love for outer-space, Meg made for such an endearing protagonist due to her immediately likeable nature. Her battles with her debilitating social anxiety, as well her new home-life struggles, could have made this a disheartening read. But her quietly witty personality and her engaging inner-monologues made this more of a hopeful read than a despairing one.
Whilst Meg battled her demons, both real and of her own creation, the reader was also provided with an enlightening conclusion. For the reader was also invited to share in learning the moral of this story: that life’s only constant is chaos. No amount of structure can prepare you for the disorder inevitable in every life, but finding those who can share the turmoil with you, makes it that much more bearable.