engaging story about grief
AS FAR AS THE STARS is a slow-burning book about overwhelming grief. Air (Ariadne) is a high schooler with heaps of responsibility on her shoulders. She has been her brother’s keeper for years, and right now, there is an extra weight in doing so. Blake, her older brother, is a musician touring England, and he’s a bit of a free spirit. He lost his phone and didn’t have enough money to book the flight he needed, so Air had to do it for him again. This time, she booked the flight into Nashville rather than the usual DC, because they have to be at their sister’s wedding.
She is on her way from DC to Nashville to pick him up when she gets his text that he is boarding and will arrive in Dulles (DC) at 10:15. When she questions him, he responds that yes, he is going to Dulles. Air assumes he must have switched the ticket or booked a different one, forgetting that she was supposed to meet him in Nashville. She rushes back to DC only to learn that the flight is delayed and then missing. But Blake was never supposed to be on that flight, so maybe he is actually in Nashville.
Christopher is folding paper and waiting for his father, who was on the same flight, but begins to talk to Air and then ends up accompanying her on her roadtrip from DC to Tennessee. Along the way, they talk about their families and lives, connecting on a deeper level.
What I loved: This book is a really deep character study into Air and Christopher’s lives. This type of book has its own appeal in getting entrenched in others’ lives. I actually did not like Air at first, but as we get to understand her better, she grew on me. I love her ambitions of becoming an astronaut, even though some of her self-constraints/punishments along the path seem over the top. She has a goal and is striving towards it the best way she knows how, and I admire that. Together, they add a lot of complexity- enough to fill a large book about a few days.
What left me wanting more: There were a few things that grated on me the wrong way, but which were overall small parts of the story. Air is upset about her older sister Jude getting married because Air believes that she is wasting her training at Julliard to become a wife and mother. I do not think marriage (or kids) is exclusive to career, and I felt like this sentiment was bandied about by Air too much. There is a bit of a discussion later between Jude and Air that somewhat gets at this, but I would have liked a bigger discussion about this ancient notion. The other thing was irresponsible pet ownership in that Air brings Leda, off-leash, everywhere, and lies about her being a service dog. She also does not seem to understand that people are very allergic to dogs when her mother brings this up as a reason to not allow the dog to roam the wedding. She also almost loses the dog a few times on a hike when Leda goes up to other people (who might be allergic or sensitive or anything else but are somehow super happy about it in the book) and when she takes off while they are talking. I felt like irresponsible pet ownership should have some consequences, as it may for other people (people with actual service dogs, people who are allergic, etc.). However, I recognize that these are relatively small points, but they did make the character more difficult for me to like, particularly at first.
Final verdict: Overall, this is an in-depth character study of family and grief with a tone and dialogue that really pulls you in to the story. The strongest part of this evocative story is the slow-burning romance that underlies the main plot. I highly recommend for people who like intensely personal YA contemporaries.