Page Count: 456
Release Date: 20 January, 2010
Publisher: Trafford (self-published)
Source: Jen at Romancing the Book for review
Life is funny sometimes. Little kids drop ice cream cones, people in general often run in to screen doors, there's even the occasional moment when one might trip going up the stairs. Kahlen could expect those things, deal with them even. But what she didn't expect, not even in her wildest, horrific nightmares, that just as something so terrible could happen, something so wonderful could follow after it.
When Kahlen Thomas has a difficult time dealing with the lost of her best and only friend, she has hopes that the new boy at school, Kennley Morgan, will be the perfect distraction from her pain. She slowly realizes that Kennley doesn't as much distract her from her problems as much as he adds to them because of his own interesting past.
What Stephanie Thought: Teenage heartbreak and fallen innocence are portrayed magnificently in Starless Sky. Having written the novel when the author was a teenager herself, Paige Agnew captures the essence of how much it sucks being a teenager, but how beautiful it can be too.
Starless Sky was enjoyable because of how much I could relate to both the scenario of troublesome high school days (the stresses of excruciating homework, boyfriend troubles, and friendship drama) as well as the main character, Kahlen's dilemma of not being able to come out of her shell completely. Labeled the school "bitch" (though to many, the "pretty bitch"), Kahlen, a self-declared introvert and failure, loses her best and only friend, Emma, to a terrifying car accident the beginning of junior year. If that isn't desolate enough, she almost immediately after Emma's death, falls into an intoxicating, mind-whirling relationship with the new bad boy in town, Kennley—one she isn't sure she can get out of. Kennley is everything a girl could want: impeccably smart, rich, popular, insanely good-looking, polite, funny, and best of all, he seems to have a huge thing for Kahlen. But Kahlen can't help but think there's something a little off about him. Something she can't quite put her finger upon.
For starters, he's secretive. He takes "important" phone calls randomly, always skips class, and admits to have getting kicked out of his old school for inappropriate behavior. As open as he is to Kahlen, there seems to be something else that he is hiding as well.
In the end, Kahlen finally discovers the secret—to both Kennley, and to herself. But the painful journey of getting there is what hurts the most, and every reader, age uninhibited, will be able to relate to each and every emotion.
Unlike many of the nitty-gritty young adult novels I've read, this one is methodically clean. It's one of those books your parents would let you read (as opposed to the Gossip Girl series or whatever). The romance is mild (kissing is the farthest Kahlen and Kennley go—although there is one attempted rape scene [nothing happens, and it doesn't involve Kennley] that may frighten younger audiences). The only drugs that appear are ones dealt by Kennley's friends (aka the bad influences)—but they are described by Kahlen in a way that they are terrible and unfathomable and you should never ever use them. The closest to swearing the characters come to are "heck" and once, "bitch". Probably the cleanest romance I've read all year ;)
This book, the plot, the characters, everything, was one I held on to and didn't want to let go of. But it is desperate need of an editor. I understand it's a self-published title, but aside from the weak verbs and adjectives (I found too many "very"s and "good"s), the flaws in the construction of the writing were really difficult to swim through. Most were petty little things like "it's" instead of "its", "there" instead of "their", and "lost" instead of "loss" (if you didn't catch that in the above blurb), but nonetheless, shouldn't a book, regardless of writing style and topic, at least have those fundamentals down and accurate? I learned how to distinguish between "it's" and "its" et al when I was in second grade. I'm not saying Agnew is less intelligent than a second grader; I'm just saying her writing assembly makes the reader assume that.
Grammar and spelling apart, another thing I want to pick at are the incredible clichés throughout the entire novel. There is a fine line between profound and overused; Agnew seems not to understand that. The adage of the whole book is "Life without love is like a starless sky". Okay, obviously we know where the title of the novel came from. But honestly? Is it just me or are the "Life without love"s getting a little old? It's not that I don't comprehend what a starless sky is. I know what a starless sky is. It's bland. I know what a life without love is too. It's bland. Isn't that common sense though? If one attempts to make something sound so powerful and poetic, they should at least get the syllabic correct. "Life without love is like a sky without stars" would have sounded better than "Life without love is like a starless sky", even. Not any more penetrating, just slightly less awkward. I really shook my head at Agnew's attempts to be deep; almost laughed at it, in fact. The only thing is, she wasn't even trying to be funny—she was completely serious.
I really can't say I recommend this book as a whole, but I did enjoy the story Agnew weaves. I admit I am a little weary of the countless number of mistakes I found, but if some big-house publisher picks this one up and decides to sieve it and refine it until its pages bleed, I'd be willing to give it another chance. We'll see what happens.
Stephanie Loves: "It couldn't be more obvious that she was drunk. I had seen her a bit tipsy before but never like this. Even though she didn't know what she was saying she still meant it. A drunken girl's actions are a sober girl's desires. Her words hurt."