Seventeen-year-old Klee’s father was the center of his life. He introduced Klee to the great museums of New York City and the important artists on their walls, he told him stories made of myths and magic. Until his death. Now, forced to live in the suburbs with his mom, Klee can’t help but feel he’s lost all the identifying parts of himself—his beloved father, weekly trips to the MoMA, and the thrumming energy of New York City. That is until he meets wild and free Sarah in art class, with her quick smiles and jokes about his “brooding.” Suddenly it seems as if she’s the only thing that makes him happy. But when an act of betrayal sends him reeling, Klee lands in what is bitingly referred to as the “Ape Can,” a psychiatric hospital for teens in Northollow. While there, he undergoes intensive therapy and goes back over the pieces of his life to find out what was real, what wasn’t, and whether he can stand on his own feet again. Told in alternating timelines, leading up to the event that gets him committed and working towards getting back out, Gae Polisner’s In Sight of Stars is a gorgeous novel told in minimalist strokes to maximal effect, about what makes us fall apart and how we can put ourselves back together again.
In Sight of StarsFeatured
In Sight of Stars
IN SIGHT OF STARS is Gae Polisner’s latest young adult novel. It’s a contemporary story that tackles mental health in the wake of trauma and loss. The protagonist, Klee, hurts himself in the opening pages of the book and gets shipped off to the Ape Can, as he calls it. The plot unravels as he confronts the experiences that resulted in his break. With help from a caring therapist, an offbeat nun, and even the other quirky patients, Klee slowly realizes that this one moment does not have to define his entire life.
This book, yet again, proves how immensely talented Polisner is. Her use of first person point of view is unconventional, but realistic. Especially at the beginning, Klee doesn’t provide commentary of everything as it happens. Instead, we, as the readers, get his immediate thoughts, responses, and emotions. We experience his stream of consciousness that doesn’t include all the details of the situation, but does convey the feeling. IN SIGHT OF STARS is the first novel I’ve ever read that captures the exact way our minds shift, move, and react to what we are witnessing.
With that being said, I was nervous to read this book knowing the subject matter. I expected it to be depressing, slow, and difficult. Conversely, I found it to be honest, inspiring, and relatable for just about anyone. Sometimes, books that tackle these themes can be overly positive or didactic, but this is neither. There is something deeply human about the way Polisner writes, and she really captures a slice of life in this novel. The way she breaks up the story, not in chapters, but in days and times that flow into one another also adds to this.
Overall, there is a very strong possibility that IN SIGHT OF STARS could be triggering for certain individuals. However, it also has the potential to be very healing. There are many insights in this book and pearls of wisdom that I will take with me going forward. Not to mention, Polisner has certainly sparked my interested in Van Gogh and the other colors in yellow. This book is an absolute must-read and the best contemporary novel I’ve read since J.C. Geiger’s WILDMAN.